Tuesday, June 16, 2009
FEAR THE ICE
The Greenland ice sheet, melting slightly but surely and letting loose its frozen secrets like this little purple bug.
Herminiimonas glaciei, has been buried under nearly two miles of ice for 120,000 years and researchers have brought back to life the dormant frozen microbes. It took them eleven and a half months to carefully warm the samples which then began to replicate.
The little purple-brown bacteria belongs to a rare family of 'ultramicro' bacteria that live in extreme environments (extremophiles, remember) and this group is really tiny.
While researchers have stressed that the bacteria was not harmful to humans, they also acknowledge that if it was harmful they would be hard to detect since they're so small they'd pass through the safety filters which are now in use in laboratories. Well, that's that covered.
The bugs were extracted from a core sample drilled from glacier ice. They filled a volume of 0.043 cubic micrometres and are thin rods with up to three long whip-like flagella.
The idea behind the study is to try and understand what life forms might be living in the extreme conditions on other planets.
Remember Mulder and the shape shifting alien bounty hunter who bled green acid blood in the frozen north and the alien virus? Then there was the episode of the wriggling worm thing at the Arctic base that crawled into the ear and latched onto the spine.
Why are we bringing back to life things we don't know which came from somewhere we don't know? And why don't I just stop watching old episodes of the X-Files?