Show Details

Vostok Ice

December 24, 2007

Million-year-old ice samples from Antarctica contain genetically fascinating microorganisms.


Priceless ice. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Lake Vostok is about the size of Lake Ontario, but you won’t find any vacation resorts there. That’s because it’s buried over two miles beneath the surface of Antarctica. Now, scientists like University of Delaware microbial ecologist Craig Cary are studying ice samples painstakingly collected from the lake’s core. Cary says the ice froze about a million years ago, probably trapping microorganisms inside.

S. CRAIG CARY (University of Delaware):
And from a genetic standpoint, that’s quite extraordinary. Because we have the ability then, to walk back in time, genetically, through the ice core.

The microbes would have evolved for 15 million years with no sunlight or air. Understanding how organisms adapt to such extreme environments can give scientists fresh insights into the evolution of life in general. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.