Scientists believe they have found evidence of a giant lake hidden under an Antarctic ice sheet in Princess Elizabeth Land, Australian Antarctic Territory. Evidence of the mystery lake can be seen in large grooves cutting across the ice. The researchers say that if the hidden lake is uncovered, it could harbor “unique forms of life” that would have evolved under the subarctic ice sheet making them entirely different from anything else we would find on earth.
— Gizmodo (@Gizmodo) April 23, 2016
The Daily Mail reports that scientists are hopeful that they have found another subarctic lake. The findings come as researchers noticed a series of large grooves cutting across over 600 miles of Princess Elizabeth Land in the Australian Antarctic Territory. Scientists believe that if a large lake is found under the glaciers it will be home to “unique forms of life” like we have never-before-seen. The lake is believed to cover nearly 400 square miles and could be one of the deepest lakes on earth
“In size, it is second [known in Antarctica] only to Lake Vostok, the fourth deepest lake on Earth and the largest of Antarctica’s subglacial lakes.”
It is not known what type of life forms the scientists may find in the large subglacial lake; however, if Lake Vostok is any indication, they will be truly unique. Extreme Tech reports that Lake Vostok is thriving with life despite the harsh climate. In fact, scientists have already discovered over 3,500 different species in the icy subglacial lake to date. Initially, life was completely unexpected for scientists working on the Lake Vostok project. It was determined that Vostok would be similar to Jupiter’s moon Europa and would likely not harbor any life as the conditions would simply be too harsh.
“Situated under four kilometers of ice, the lake is even more inhospitable than the surface directly above it; while drilling, researchers at Vostok Station measured the air at -89 degrees Celsius, the coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth. The ice above the lake puts the water under enormous physical pressure, comparable to that found under the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa, but also cuts it off completely from the Sun. In such extreme conditions, and with essentially no outside energy input for millions of years, finding life in Lake Vostok seemed, let’s just say unlikely.”
— Holly Ferrie (@magnetospheric) January 14, 2016
However, scientists were quickly proven wrong as numerous species began surfacing in the “unlikely” conditions. Perhaps more surprising is the fact that it wasn’t just new bacterial life that was found in the icy lake; researchers also discovered multi-cell species that are mostly associated with mollusks and fish.
“Most interesting is that the life they found is not entirely bacterial. Several hundred species of eukaryotic organisms also live in the water, including over 100 multicellular species. They even found species that are generally associated with mollusks and fish, leading one researcher to say that the lake ‘might have fish,’ before quickly backpedaling.”
There is no reason to believe that the potential subglacial lake underneath Princess Elizabeth Land would be any different and new, unique life forms are expected as the areas “have been isolated from the rest of the planet for an awful long time and might have unique adaptations as a result.” The area around the lake has proven a treasure-trove for researchers as the “world’s grandest canyon” was recently discovered in the same area. The Scientific American reports that a canyon twice as long as the Grand Canyon was found in Princess Elizabeth Land, along with features indicating subglacial lakes, rivers, basins, volcanoes, and even mountains.
— BIZBoost™ (@BIZBoostMe) April 19, 2016
Did you know that Antarctica was home to the biggest canyon on earth? What about home to some of the world’s deepest lakes?
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