Chapter 11 : Lake Vostok and Subglacial Lakes of Antarctica: Do They Host Life?

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The study of subglacial lakes requires a multidisciplinary approach, because basic questions are addressed to life, Earth, atmosphere, and climate sciences. In view of the large geological time span, paleosciences are at the base of the study. The scientific objectives comprise (i) understanding formation and evolution of subglacial processes and environments; (ii) determining the existence, origins, evolution, and maintenance of life; and (iii) understanding limnology and paleoclimate history recorded in lake sediments. Novel responses to the environment are expected to be found in the lake systems, important end members for biodiversity and polar-community dynamics. The only information on living organisms in the Lake Vostok area is coming from the ice core. The findings are reported in several publications in issues of top journals of the past decade. Methane clathrates are known to exist at great marine depths, but their microbiological characterization is scanty; clathrates of other gases are even less known. Evidence from at least four independent laboratories indicates that accretion ice contains bacteria. The danger of irreversibly contaminating extraterrestrial bodies with biological material coming from Earth is an even major concern for space missions, and again, this calls for extreme care.

Citation: Prisco G. 2007. Lake Vostok and Subglacial Lakes of Antarctica: Do They Host Life?, p 145-154. In Gerday C, Glansdorff N (ed), Physiology and Biochemistry of Extremophiles. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815813.ch11
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Generic image for table
Table 1.

Microorganisms in the ice core above Lake Vostok

Citation: Prisco G. 2007. Lake Vostok and Subglacial Lakes of Antarctica: Do They Host Life?, p 145-154. In Gerday C, Glansdorff N (ed), Physiology and Biochemistry of Extremophiles. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815813.ch11

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