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Surprise microbes found in an Antarctic lake

Researchers have reported finding life in the most unlikely of places: under the Antarctic ice.

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Scientists recently found indications that bacteria live in Lake Whillans, which is buried 2,625 feet (800 m) below the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Russian scientists are currently analyzing water samples collected in early 2013 from Lake Vostok, which is buried under more than 2 miles (3 kilometers) of Antarctic ice and had not been touched for some 14 million years.

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"What would actually be surprising would be if we looked in these places and they were completely sterile," Pearce told LiveScience.

But the diversity of the life forms in Lake Hodgson was still surprising.

Nearly a quarter of the genetic sequences identified in the study did not match with any known sequence, the researchers reported, suggesting a diversity of never-before-seen life forms may lurk beneath Antarctic lakes.

Further investigation is needed, but the researchers say many of the species in this isolated ecosystem are likely to be new to science.

With continued research, Pearce said, "We can start to build a picture of what limits life in extreme conditions and then start thinking about what might limit life on other planets."

Follow Megan Gannon on Twitter and Google+. Follow OurAmazingPlanet @OAPlanetFacebook and Google+. Original article at LiveScience's OurAmazingPlanet.

Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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