The discovery in Antarctica has “exciting implications” for understanding how life evolves on distant planets.
According to scientists participating in an extraordinary new study, an ANTARCTICA discovery has “exciting implications” for showing how life develops on distant worlds in space.
Approximately 5,000 researchers visit the ice continent each year to examine the unspoiled region in order to learn more about the Earth’s past and the consequences of climate change. Its desolate setting provides them with a unique habitat where they may investigate the deserted area despite temperatures as low as -90°C. However, beneath the ice is a network of subglacial lakes alive with bacteria that feed on the nutrients in the water.
Experts had been mystified as to where these nutrients came from until now, but they found a breakthrough in a new study after simulating erosion in these lakes by crushing sediment samples in the lab.
It demonstrated how the essential compounds required to keep microbial populations alive are produced.
“Our work is absolutely different from any previous studies on subglacial lakes,” lead author Dr Beatriz Gill Olivas of the University of Bristol told Live Science.
“Previous research has looked at how bedrock erosion can produce gases in subglacial conditions, but our research looked at how erosion can also release biologically significant nutrient sources into the water.”
She went on to say that the discoveries could have “interesting implications” for research into how microbial life might develop in other parts of the universe.
The researchers immersed the smashed boulders for more than 40 days before analyzing the water to discover which compounds were released from the silt.
They discovered a vast range of substances such as hydrogen, methane, carbon dioxide, and ammonium.
As the silt is crushed, the majority of these compounds are released immediately.
“During crushing, the sediments are split down into much tiny particles,” Dr. Gill Olivas explained.
“As a result, small bubbles found in rocks, known as fluid inclusions, can be cracked open, releasing gases and liquid previously trapped within them.”
Methanotrophs are a type of microorganism that uses methane as a source of energy to develop.
Methanogens, on the other hand, produce energy by converting hydrogen and carbon dioxide into methane.
Nitrification, the process of turning ammonium to nitrite and eventually to nitrate, provides energy to specialized bacteria in the lake.
The results could be beneficial. “Brinkwire News in Condensed Form.”