11 September 2009 Life in ice: implications to astrobiology
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Abstract
During previous research expeditions to Siberia, Alaska and Antarctica, it was observed that glaciers and ice wedges contained bacterial cells that became motile as soon as the ice melted. This phenomenon of live bacteria in ice was first documented for microbes in ancient ice cores from Vostok, Antarctica. The first validly published species of Pleistocene bacteria alive on Earth today was Carnobacterium pleistocenium. This extremophile had remained for 32,000 years, encased in ice recently exposed in the Fox Tunnel of Alaska. These frozen bacteria began to swim as soon as the ice was thawed. Dark field microscopy studies revealed that large numbers of bacteria exhibited motility as soon as glacial ice was melted during our recent Expeditions to Alaska and Antarctica led to the conclusion that microbial life in ice was not a rare phenomenon. The ability of bacteria to remain alive while frozen in ice for long periods of time is of great significance to Astrobiology. In this paper, we describe the recent observations and advance the hypothesis that life in ice provides valuable clues to how we can more easily search for evidence of life on the Polar Caps of Mars, comets and other icy bodies of our Solar System. It is suggested that cryopanspermia may have played a far more important role in Origin of Life on Earth and the distribution of Life throughout the Cosmos and than previously thought possible.
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Richard B. Hoover, Elena V. Pikuta, "Life in ice: implications to astrobiology", Proc. SPIE 7441, Instruments and Methods for Astrobiology and Planetary Missions XII, 74410P (11 September 2009); doi: 10.1117/12.832640; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.832640
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