Scientists hunt for life in detergent filled-lake in Antartica

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Washington, Feb 18 (UNI) A team of scientists are exploring the possibility of life in a very strange lake in Antarctica, which is filled with, hold your breath, extra-strength laundry detergent.

The reserachers are hunting for extremophiles, tough little creatures that thrive in conditions too extreme for most other living things.

''Antarctica's Lake Untersee, fed by glaciers, always covered with ice, and very alkaline, is one of the most unusual lakes on Earth. The upper 70 meters of lakewater is so alkaline its pH is like strong CloroxTM,'' said expedition leader Richard Hoover of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.

''And to make it even more interesting, the lake's sediments produce more methane than any other natural body of water on our planet. If we find life here, it will have important implications,'' he added.

''Lake Untersee is a sort of test case for other exotic places around the solar system (namely Mars, comets, and the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn) where life might be found in the extremes. Many of those places are cold and methane-rich, not unlike this lake,'' the reseracher informed.

''With our research this year, we hope to identify some new limits for life in terms of temperature and pH levels. This will help us decide where to search for life on other planets and how to recognise alien life if we actually find it,'' Mr Hoover was quoted by Sciencedaily as saying.

''One thing we've learned in recent years is that you don't have to have a 'Goldilocks' zone with perfect temperature, a certain pH level, and so forth, for life to thrive,'' he noted.

''Researchers have found microbes living in ice, in boiling water, in nuclear reactors. Most incredible, though, was the revelation a few years ago that some extremophiles the researchers found in an Alaskan tunnel actually came to life as the ice around them melted,'' Mr Hoover informed.

''These bacteria had endured being frozen for 32,000 years and were able to go back to 'business as usual' as they thawed out. If microscopic creatures on Earth can do that, why not microscopic creatures on other planets?,'' the researcher asked.

''These 'strange' extremophiles may in fact be the norm for life elsewhere in the cosmos,'' Mr Hoover explained.


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