What a salty, frozen lake in Antarctica says about Earthly microbe life being similar to potential organisms on Mars.
Researchers looking at ice core samples from Lake Vida—a salty, mostly frozen lake in Antarctica—have discovered microbial life that was isolated for “on the order of several hundred to a few thousand years.” While it sounds like the beginning of Evil Dead or Contagion, you’ll be relieved to know that the bacteria don’t grow very well with a lot of oxygen, and seem content to slowly survive at 15 degrees below zero Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit). That type of extreme environment means the microbes could be similar to potential organisms on Mars.
Lake Vida is so cold that it was thought to be permafrost, however researchers found that between 15-20 meters below the surface, the Antarctic lake turns into a sediment-saturated “brine.” Likely run-off from ancient, melting glaciers, the liquid is so salty that it doesn’t freeze, even though the temperature is well below freezing. The brine contains so much iron that when it hits the air it rusts, turning from pale yellow to an orange-brown.