London, March 4 (ANI): Scientists have determined that an unexplored lake, which has been frozen for hundreds for thousands of years beneath Antarctica, could contain "unique forms of life" that give clues to life on Mars.
According to a report in Telegraph, buried nearly two miles beneath Antarctica, the unspoilt lake has been "frozen in time" for hundreds of thousands of years, sealed off from the outside world.
Scientists believe it may contain tiny life forms that never been seen by humans, whose existence would throw light on how life could develop in other icy environments, including Mars.
The team also hopes the exploration of the waters will yield vital clues about climate change and future sea-level rise.
Over the next five years, the researchers will develop the technologies needed for exploration of the lake, with funding from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).
During the 2012-2013 winter season, the research team will go "deep field" into West Antarctica to sample water from the lake in the search of "tiny life forms never before seen" and to extract sediment from the lake bed to find clues as to how the climate has changed over many millennia.
Professor Martyn Tranter from the University of Bristol will be analysing some of the water from the lake, looking for signs of life.
"We are all very excited at the prospect of seeing what's going on down there. Any microbes feeding on material at the bottom of the lake will be giving off a particular chemical signature that we hope to pick up in the water," he said.
"If we find anything living beneath the ice, it will not only be very exciting in itself, but could have implications for life in similar icy environments, such as on other planets," he added.
About the size of Lake Windermere, in the Lake District, the underground pool has been described as "one of the planet's last great frontiers".
According to Bristol University spokeswoman Cherry Lewis, "It is frozen in time. When we talk about life on other planets we're talking about mainly micro-organisms, and primarily about the planet Mars. However, some of the other moons have similar icy environments."
"It is possible we will find higher life-forms down there. It's a complete unknown at the moment, which is why it is so exciting," she said. (ANI)