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Unidentified life pulled from frozen lake

March 7, 2013 at 5:32 PM   |   Comments

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, March 7 (UPI) -- Water samples from an ancient lake buried under ice near the South Pole contain a type of life not found anywhere else on Earth, Russian researchers say.

Bacteria found in probes of water from sub-glacial Lake Vostok do not match any of the 40-plus known subkingdoms of bacteria, Sergei Bulat of the Laboratory of Eukaryote Genetics at the St. Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute said.

"After excluding all known contaminants ... we discovered bacterial DNA that does not match any known species listed in global databanks," Bulat told RIA Novosti Thursday. "We call it unidentified and 'unclassified' life."

Seven samples of the same species of bacteria were found in water frozen on the head of the drill that in 2012 reached the lake buried beneath a 2.1-mile-thick ice sheet.

Attempts to identify the newly discovered microorganism showed it did not fit any of the main categories of microorganisms in its taxonomic domain, the researchers said.

Scientists have long suspected unique species of extremophile microbes, sustained by geothermal heat and capable of surviving in Vostok's dark depths, might have evolved in the lake.

"If it were found on Mars, people would call it Martian DNA," Bulat said. "But this is DNA from Earth."

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