Friday, April 17, 2009

Icy, Iron-Eating Microbes

Scientists have just discovered a new group of microbes that live underneath an Antarctic glacier and use iron for energy. We've known for a while that Blood Falls, a red waterfall-like feature on the side of Taylor Glacier, got its color from oxidized iron, but it was a mystery how that iron made it to the surface of the ice. The team of researchers led by Jill Mikucki believe the microbes extract iron from the bedrock beneath the glacier, metabolize it, then extract it to the surface. Not only does this tell us why Blood Falls is so damn bloody, it also gives us a better understanding of how life can exist in extreme conditions. Potentially, similar microbes could live on cold, airless planets. Assuming these aren't already alien beings who've been patiently waiting under the ice to kill us all and absorb our technology. Always a possibility. More details here.

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