Scientists have discovered a new species of bacteria from water samples obtained from the ancient Lake Vostok. Lake Vostok had been isolated from the world for over 17 million years, and was protected by a thick sheet of ice. Scientists began drilling through the ice since 1989, and have been collected water samples from the lake. The scientists stated that the bacteria did not belong to the “40-plus known sub-kingdoms of bacteria.”
Sergei Bulat, a researcher at the Laboratory of Eukaryote Genetics at the St. Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute, stated,
“After excluding all known contaminents…we discovered bacterial DNA that does not match any known species listed in global databanks. We call it unidentified and ‘unclassified’ life.”
The bacteria’s DNA only had an 86% match to any other known organism on Earth. While 86% seems like a high figure, any figure below 90% is an indicator of a new species.
The scientists will need more samples in order to confirm their research, however they believe that no matter how much they research, they’re sure they’ve found a new species of bacteria. The scientists were able to take the water frozen on the drills at Lake Vostok to do their research, and because there was recently a new drilling session at the lake, more samples should be making their way to the scientists as we speak.
Last year, the scientists were eager to find unique species in Lake Vostok, but all of their samples showed no signs of new life forms. These new results provided them with the much needed boost and reassurance they needed to prove that their efforts were not in vain. It took the researchers 23 years to finish drilling through the 3.5 kilometer thick sheet of ice protecting the lake and the discovery of the new species of bacteria was worth it. Bulat stated,
“If it were found on Mars, people would call it Martian DNA. But this is DNA from Earth.”
[via RIA Novosti]