Some Thing is Found in Lake Vostok

By Tom Yulsman | March 8, 2013 1:42 am

The Thing.

Results are preliminary, but Russian scientists say they have recovered an “unclassified” form of life from water samples brought up from ancient Lake Vostok, more than 2 miles beneath Antarctica’s ice sheet.

No, it’s not akin to “The Thing” in John Carpenter’s awesome 1982 movie (depicted in the screenshot above from a clip of the movie). Genetic analysis reveals that it is a species of bacteria that’s never been seen before.

The Russian site, RIA Novosti, reported the news yesterday. Quoted in the story, Sergei Bulat, a researcher at the Laboratory of Eukaryote Genetics at the St. Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute, had this to say:

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.”

In his blog at Scientific American, Caleb Scharf, director of Columbia University’s multidisciplinary Astrobiology Center, struck a cautious note about the discovery:

Obviously we’ll need to wait to see the details. Phrases like ‘bacterial DNA’ are pretty vague – are they looking at things like the ubiquitous 16s rRNA, or some other sequence selections typically used for metagenomic analysis? Do they have cells under a microscope?

It looks to be exciting news though. Decades of hard work to reach one of the most alien places on Earth may actually be revealing lifeforms we have not knowingly encountered before. It doesn’t really get better than this!

I just hope they have that stuff contained well. (Oh, and by the way, if you want to watch the clip from The Thing, go here.)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Miscellaneous, select, Top Posts


ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


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