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Scientists melt million-year-old ice in search of ancient microbes
Date:12/7/2007

k, so it makes sense that we should study how life exists under these conditions. In addition, enzymes produced by these microorganisms may be useful in industrial applications down the road, Smith noted.

The Vostok water contains only between 10-100 microbes per milliliter compared to approximately 1 million microbes per milliliter for most lakes, Cary said.

Novel whole genome amplification techniques will be applied, which provide insight into the genetic diversity of a community of organisms when only small numbers of organisms are available.

A veteran of research expeditions around the globe, Cary is an expert on extremophiles--organisms that thrive in the harshest environments on the planet, ranging from the dry, frigid desert of Antarctica, to geyser-like hydrothermal vents spewing toxic chemicals from the ocean floor.

In the case of Lake Vostok, scientists speculate that it stays in a liquid state underneath miles of ice due to one of the Earth's natural furnaces--hydrothermal vents. Superheated water erupts from these cracks in the seafloor which form where the plates that form the Earth's crust pull apart.

We hope that by being so isolated for millions of years, these microorganisms from Vostok will be able to tell us about their life and conditions through the ages, Cary said.


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Contact: Tracey Bryant
tbryant@udel.edu
302-831-8185
University of Delaware  
Source:Eurekalert

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