Lake Vida field camp, erected for about a month in 2010 in the Victoria Valley, AntarcticaCourtesy of Emanuele Kuhn, Desert Research Institute, Reno, NevadaThe super salty waters of Lake Vida in Antarctica have been isolated from the surface by a thick layer of ice for nearly 3,000 years, but that doesn’t mean they don’t harbor a diverse array of microbial life. Drilling through the ice and taking samples of the water below, microbial environmentalist Alison Murray of the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada, and her colleagues found troves of metabolically active microbes in the oxygen-free, very salty water, or brine.

“Lake Vida is not a nice place to make a living in,” coauthor Peter Doran of the University of Illinois at Chicago told Nature. “It is quite remarkable that something wants to live in that cold, dark, and salty environment at all.”

The findings, published yesterday...

“For sure, there is a lot of energy in the brine,” Murray told Nature. “Carbon may be the primary energy source, but hydrogen may be vital to sustain the lake’s microbial life in the long-term.”

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