Animals under Antarctic ice?

Data suggest a web of lake organisms might thrive deep under ice; scientists struggle to make sense of the new report

By Douglas Fox, 11:32 AM July 22, 2013

The surface of Antarctica’s ice sheet is a harsh polar desert. During summer it is raked by the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays. In winter, temperatures can fall below ‒80 degrees Celsius. But kilometers below sits a network of rivers and lakes, including Lake Vostok. New evidence finds life in these buried waters, but scientists are still debating what types and how much life they may hold. Credit: JT Thomas

Lake Vostok is the seventh-largest lake on Earth. It is also the fourth deepest. Although it was discovered more than 20 years ago, humans have never laid eyes on it. And that’s because it lies beneath 3.7 kilometers (2.3 miles) of ice in the center of Antarctica. But its remote site has not kept scientists from trying to probe this lake and whatever it may hide. And if one team is correct, the mysterious lake has indeed been hiding a shocking mix of living things. Perhaps thousands of dif...

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