'New Bacteria' found in Antarctic Lake

  • #1
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http://news.discovery.com/earth/russia-finds-new-bacteria-antarctic-lake-130307.htm

Russian scientists believe they have found a wholly new type of bacteria in the subglacial Lake Vostok in Antarctica, the RIA Novosti news agency reported on March 7.

The samples obtained from the underground lake in May 2012 contained a bacteria which bore no resemblance to existing types, said Sergei Bulat of the genetics laboratory at the Saint Petersburg Institute of Nuclear Physics.
 

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  • #2
Monique
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New organisms are discovered every day.. would this be an ancient bacterium of some sort or did they mention they couldn't identify descendants? The article isn't very clear.
 
  • #3
Well, it would a whole new evolutionary branch of bacteria that likely has little to no gene transfer with the rest of the earth.
 
  • #4
Curious3141
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In Capitalist Russia, you find bacteria.

In Soviet Russia, bacteria find you. :biggrin:

Anyway, it's a false alarm. http://phys.org/news/2013-03-russia-life-antarctic-lake.html

Russian scientists on Saturday dismissed initial reports that they had found a wholly new type of bacteria in a mysterious subglacial lake in Antarctica.

...

But the head of the genetics laboratory at the same institute said on Saturday that the strange life forms were in fact nothing but contaminants. "We found certain specimen, although not many. All of them were contaminants" that were brought there by the lab during research, Vladimir Korolyov told the Interfax news agency. "That is why we cannot say that previously-unknown life was found," he said.
The only scientifically accurate thing we can say about this whole escapade is that now there's a great likelihood these scientists have queered the pitch for others by contaminating a once "pristine" environment.

A slight (albeit relevant) digression: the level of confidence with which one can state that no life (not even spores) exist on an object is called a "Sterility Assurance Level". You might think that the highest SALs would be found in surgical applications - like neurosurgical operating theatres, where even a small risk of infection can prove disastrous. But you would be wrong. The highest artificially achievable SALs are found in outer-space unmanned expeditionary equipment, e.g. the probes used to test for the presence of extraterrestrial life on Mars. This is to provide a great deal of assurance that whatever is found on such an expedition is legitimate.

Considering that, an admission of contamination of this sort of Antarctic environment not only negates their own findings, it also makes follow-up work next to impossible.
 
  • #5
Monique
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If it were contaminants, how could they have thought it was a previously unknown life form?
 
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Curious3141
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If it were contaminants, how could they have thought it was a previously unknown life form?
Beats me. But I had a great deal of skepticism about the initial reports anyway. There was simply not enough detail for a scientifically informed observer (like a microbiologist - and I'm one) to make a judgement of the validity of the claim. For instance, it was not at all clear what method/metric they were using to judge genetic distance - whole genome sequencing? Or something more limited like 16s rDNA sequencing? Because the latter method, while widespread and very easy to do, is quite imperfect even more many known and well-characterised genera. And what database were they using - BLAST or something else? What search criteria?

After Pons and Fleischmann, you'd think the popular science press would be more cautious and circumspect, but you'd be wrong.
 
  • #7
Beats me. But I had a great deal of skepticism about the initial reports anyway. There was simply not enough detail for a scientifically informed observer (like a microbiologist - and I'm one) to make a judgement of the validity of the claim. For instance, it was not at all clear what method/metric they were using to judge genetic distance - whole genome sequencing? Or something more limited like 16s rDNA sequencing? Because the latter method, while widespread and very easy to do, is quite imperfect even more many known and well-characterised genera. And what database were they using - BLAST or something else? What search criteria?

After Pons and Fleischmann, you'd think the popular science press would be more cautious and circumspect, but you'd be wrong.
Well this is what the russians said, don't know about the legitimacy

On 7 March 2013, a new type of bacteria was discovered in a water sample obtained from Lake Vostok in 2012 when they initially drilled down to the lake's surface. Sergey Bulat, a geneticist at the Saint Petersburg Institute of Nuclear Physics, sequenced the bacterium's genome and looked it up through a global database and was not able to find anything similar to its type. Only 86% of the bacteria is said to be similar to other types of bacteria
And the last two lines dont necessarily mean anything
 

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