PITTSBURGH, PA – A tiny bacterium taken from a Greenland ice sheet has been revived and studied, further fueling theories of potential alien life.
Officially named Herminiimonas glaciei, it was pulled from the base of a Greenland glacier, buried over one and a half miles in ice. It is extremely small, at just 0.9 micrometres long and 0.4 micrometres in diameter, and very old, about 120,000 years old!
Scientists believe that it lives in tiny veins in the ice, living off of dust, bacterial cells, fungal spores, plant spores, and minerals. But it’s revival process may be as interesting as it’s existence. Pennsylvania State University spent over a year slowly bringing it back to life, keeping it at 35.5 °F for 7 months, then at 41 °F for another four-and-a-half months, until they began to see the bacteria flourishing.
However, Jennifer Loveland-Curtze is most excited by the implications of finding life in such extreme conditions. She believes similar organisms might be found on other planets, such as at the polar ice caps on Mars or in the icy ocean of Jupiter’s moon, Europa (seen above).
“All we can say is that because ice is the best medium to preserve nucleic acids, other organic compounds and cells, the potential for finding them in these environments is quite high because of the cold,” says Loveland-Curtze. “It gives us hope that if something is there, we can locate it.”