An entirely new bacteria is believed to have been discovered by a group of Russian researchers at the sub-glacial Lake Vostok in Antarctica on February 5, 2012.
According to Sergei Bulat, from the genetics laboratory at the Saint Petersburg Institute of Nuclear Physics, samples taken from the lake in May 2012 contained a bacteria that didn’t match any existing bacteria on record.
Bulat said, “After putting aside all possible elements of contamination, DNA was found that did not coincide with any of the well-known types in the global database.”
“We are calling this life form unclassified and unidentified,” he continued.
The Russian team originally discovered the new bacteria while drilling down to the surface of Lake Vostok, believed to have been enclosed by ice for more than one million years, and extracting samples during their 2012 expedition.
Lake Vostok is one of the largest underground lakes in Antarctica and it’s been a target for scientists for some time now due to its unique ecosystem.
The 2012 Russian expedition team had to drill over two miles in order to reach the lake and extract samples for study.
The real discovery here is the huge variation in resemblance that the DNA has compared to other recorded DNA found on Earth, showing less than an 86 percent similarity to any existing forms.
“In terms of work with DNA this is basically zero. A level of 90 percent usually means that an organism is unknown,” Bulat said.
The new bacteria found is so different in its construction that even finding genetic descendants of the bacteria isn’t possible.
“If this had been found on Mars everyone would have undoubtedly said there is life on Mars. But this is bacteria from Earth.”
The Russian team is planning another expedition to the frozen continent in May, in hopes that they will collect yet another sample of the new bacteria to confirm their findings.
If that happens, the team will have undoubtedly discovered a new life form on Earth.
New bacteria like this gives researchers more information about life formation and adaptation in extreme environments, data the helps support theories about life formation on other planets.