Active Ecosystem One-half Mile Below the Surface of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet

The first breakthrough article to come out of a massive U.S. expedition to one of Earth’s final frontiers shows that there’s life and an active ecosystem one-half mile below the surface of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, specifically in a lake that hasn’t seen sunlight or felt a breath of wind for millions of years. The life is in the form of microorganisms that live beneath the enormous Antarctic ice sheet and convert ammonium and methane into the energy required for growth.

Many of the subglacial archaea use the energy in the chemical bonds of ammonium to fix carbon dioxide and drive other metabolic processes. Another group of microorganisms uses the energy and carbon in methane to make a living. According to Priscu, the source of the ammonium and methane is most likely from the breakdown of organic matter that was deposited in the area hundreds of thousands of years ago when Antarctica was warmer and the sea inundated West Antarctica. He also noted that, as Antarctica continues to warm, vast amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, will be liberated into the atmosphere enhancing climate warming.


I’d imagine that this opens up great hope for life elsewhere in our Solar System and beyond. If life can be found at these depths and these conditions, the universe must be teaming with life.



9 thoughts on “Active Ecosystem One-half Mile Below the Surface of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet

  1. What’s next, you’re gonna tell us that evolution is a lie? This week in Columbus they are trying to revoke Common Core. If they are successful, do you think things like this article will be taught in a science class?

    1. I’m trying to figure out who/what interest is behind the ‘kill common core.’ Who and why? It has to be more than the fundies.

      1. In my thinking, it’s not per se about religion. Rather,its about the concept of central government dictating to the state and local levels. Jefferson vs Hamilton and Adams. Centuries old governmental philosophies. Locke vs Hobbes. Patrick Henry vs Madison

  2. I read in the Blade this AM that the sponsor now wants the Tea Party to help him push this through. Anything from ‘big government’ needs to be stopped. Really??

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