Researcher debunks “unidentified” life found in Lake Vostok

Mar 11, 2013
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The scientists at the St. Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute were excited when they found what they believed to be "unidentified" life near the South Pole. They collected 7 samples from Lake Vostok after drilling 3.5 kilometers to reach the lake. Scientist Sergei Bulat, who was the leader of the group that discovered the "new" species, stated, "After excluding all known contaminants... we discovered bacterial DNA that does not match any known species listed in global data banks. We call it unidentified and ‘unclassified’ life."

But things have taken a turn for the worse. Vladimir Korolyov, head of the genetics lab at the St. Petersburg Institute, made a statement that debunks the team's discovery. He said,

"We found certain specimen, although not many, but all of them belonged to contaminants (microorganisms from the bore-hole kerosene, human bodies, or the lab). There was one strain of bacteria which we did not find in drilling liquid, but the bacteria could in principal use kerosene as an energy source."

The findings contradicts Bulat's statement that they "excluded all known contaminants," however nothing is set in stone just yet. The institute will be deploying deep-water devices to Lake Vostok within a year in order to obtain pure water samples. Korolyov stated, "For now we'd rather not say something we will be unable to whitewash even with the crystal clear Vostok water."

This certainly puts a damper on things. The scientists had been working on this project for nearly 23 years, and all of the samples they have taken have yielded no positive results. The current samples from Lake Vostok are being analyzed by the Arctic and Antarctic Institute, the St. Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute, and the Limnology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Irkutsk. The Moscow Microbiology Institute may analyze the samples in the future. The lake has been isolated for over 17 million years, so many of us are rooting for the scientists to discover something groundbreaking.

[via RBTH]


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