NASA reports that a community of bacteria has been uncovered from some 65ft below the icy surface of Lake Vida, the largest of several unique lakes found in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. Why is this so exciting? Lake Vida contains no oxygen, is mostly frozen and possesses the highest nitrous oxide levels of any natural water body on Earth. To discover life existing in one of Earth’s darkest, saltiest and coldest habitats is significant because it helps increase our limited knowledge of how life can sustain itself in these extreme environments on our own planet and beyond.
The study provides a window into one of the most unique ecosystems on Earth. Despite the very cold, dark and isolated nature of the habitat, the report finds the brine harbors a surprisingly diverse and abundant variety of bacteria that survive without a current source of energy from the sun. ”This system is probably the best analog we have for possible ecosystems in the subsurface waters of Saturn’s moon Enceladus and Jupiter’s moon Europa,” said Chris McKay, a senior scientist and co-author of the paper at NASA’s Ames Research Center.
The discovery of the germs is fueling speculation that life may exist such as Mars, Jupiter’s moon Europa, and Saturn’s moon Enceladus. This gives the term ‘digging deeper’ a whole new meaning.