Researchers find unidentified signs of life in the bottom of an Antarctic lake

: This Jan. 9, 2007 photo provided by the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute of St. Petersburg shows the Russian drilling machine 5-G in Antarctica. The research institute said Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012, it has reached Lake Vostok, Antarctica's largest icebound freshwater lake, which has been sealed off for millions of years, after more than two decades of drilling. When Russian scientists examine samples from Lake Vostok, which hasn't seen light or wind for 20 million years, they may find microbes. If so, it'll show again that no matter how harsh, life finds a way to survive in the strangest places on Earth. So far bacteria has been found under ice sheets, deep in broiling hot mines, in highly acidic rivers, in the and the most radioactive of places. It's hard to find places devoid of life. So what does that mean for Mars or the far-off moons Europa and Enceladus which have oceans below crusts of ice just like Lake Vostok? (AP Photo/Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute Press Service, Pavel Teterev)

March 8, 2013 3:36:19 PM PST
An "unclassified" life form has been found in a recent sample taken from the bottom of an Antarctic lake.

The bacteria were found in an ice core taken from the bottom of Lake Vostok, which is covered by an ice sheet more than two miles thick.

Researchers tested the sample, saying that its DNA is different enough from existing records to count as its own species.

According to the Russian news site RIA Novosti, Sergei Bulat, a researcher at the St. Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute, said:

“After excluding all known contaminants…we discovered bacterial DNA that does not match any known species listed in global databanks. We call it unidentified and ‘unclassified’ life.”

Full details of the discovery are still vague, though scientists are excited to have found signs of life in one of the coldest places on Earth. A U.S.-funded team has also drilled into a separate ice sheet in Antarctica, and says that they have encountered bacteria as well.

The sample may have been isolated as early as 17 million years ago, and this could be the first time the water has seen sunlight in millennia.