Antarctic bacteria discovery

This video is called Living Bacteria Found Deep Under the Ice in Antarctica.

From New Scientist:

Mystery bug found in Antarctica’s Lake Vostok

There is something alive in Lake Vostok, deep beneath the East Antarctic ice sheet, and we don’t know what it is. Water samples from the lake contain a bacterium that does not seem to belong to any known bacterial groups – although whether it truly is a new form of life remains to be proven.

Russian scientists breached Lake Vostok in February 2012, after years of drilling. The lake lies beneath 3.5 kilometres of ice, and has been cut off from the rest of the world since Antarctica froze 14 million years ago.

The Russians’ borehole was filled with lubricating kerosene, which contains bacteria – causing concerns that the lake might be contaminated. But the project seems to have avoided this. When the drill hit the lake, it automatically withdrew in response to the pressure change. Lake water gushed into the borehole, pushing the kerosene up the hole before freezing.

Since last May, Sergey Bulat of the Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute in Russia and colleagues have been studying the water that froze onto the drill bit. “The samples proved to be very dirty,” he says, with lots of kerosene. Preliminary genetic analyses reported last October found bacteria from the drilling fluid, not the lake.

Bulat has now gone back to the DNA samples. Comparing their DNA sequences to a database of known contaminants, he identified short fragments of DNA belonging to 19 different known bacterial species. “All of them proved to be contaminants, or bacteria from human skin,” says Bulat.

More unusual

A twentieth species is more unusual. The genetic samples show less than 86 per cent similarity to the known major groups of bacteria. That could mean it belongs to an entirely new division, says Bulat, although he concedes that it could just be a new species.

“This is encouraging, but we don’t really know much about it,” says David Pearce of the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, UK. He says it would have been surprising if there hadn’t been life in Lake Vostok, as organisms manage to survive in all manner of extreme environments. More interesting, he says, is what the life in Vostok looks like, and how different it is to everything else on Earth.

Pearce has studied samples from Lake Hodgson, which lies beneath just a few metres of ice in west Antarctica. He says 25 per cent of the genetic sequences he has found do not match anything found in DNA databases. So on its own, having an unusual DNA sequence does not prove that the Vostok bacterium belongs to a new group. There’s a long list of systematic tests that will need to be carried out in order to prove that.

The results must also be independently replicated, says Martin Siegert of the University of Bristol, UK, who led an unsuccessful attempt to drill into another Antarctic lake – Ellsworth – last year.

Sediment life

If the bacterium does belong to a new group, it will quickly come under scrutiny. “The next question is, where does it come from?” says Siegert. Researchers think life is most likely in the sediments at the lake bottom, where there is food. But if Bulat’s bacterium came from the sediment in Lake Vostok, it must have been sucked up through 700 metres of lake water when the Russian drill head broke through the icy roof above Vostok.

“The only way to find out is to go into the lake itself and do direct sampling,” says Siegert. Robots could collect lake water and sediment.

American researchers recently drilled into Lake Whillans, a shallower subglacial lake that is connected to a subglacial network of lakes and rivers, and also found living microbes.

Liebster Award, thank you Barbara!

Liebster Award

Barbara of the blog Common Sense in an uncommon world has been so kind to award Dear Kitty. Some blog the Liebster Award! Thank you so much Barbara, and all the best for you and your blog!

Here are the rules for the Liebster Award:

Section 1. Add the award logo to your blog.

Section 2. Answer the eleven questions.

Section 3. Pass the award on to 11 other blogs, link to them and let them know. Ask them eleven new questions.

Barbara’s eleven questions for her nominees are:

1. What is your idea of the coolest pen name? At the moment, my Internet pen name is petrel41. Petrel because of the beautiful snow petrel which I was privileged to see near Antarctica. And 41 because of a number in a street where I used to live, but don’t live any more.

2. If you were King/Queen… I would abdicate and abolish the monarchy. I don’t believe in monarchies.

3. What was the coolest decade for being a teen? 1960s. All sorts of new music rising … standards of living rising for many people, not just for a minority of billionaires, like now.

4. If you made the laws, how would you stop child abuse? Child abuse and how to stop it are really complex issues. One cannot stop it by better laws only. The questions then would still remain: will these laws be put into practice? And: will the child abuse become known soon; or will it be like with British child abuser Sim Jimmy Savile, who died and got a luxurious tombstone with an inscription in golden letters? Only removed later when the truth came out?

Briefly, too briefly: quite some people think of typical child abusers as mysterious unknown people, lurking in bushes, waiting for children unknown to them. That is not true. The great majority of child abusers know their victims; and are often in some position of authority over the children. That often makes it harder for children, or their parents, to denounce the culprits. Sir Jimmy Savile was a “celebrity” with a “good” reputation; and with links to government and other establishment people. If a child rapist is a priest, then there is the idea that denouncing that rapist would be against the church, against God Himself. So, the truth about little Marietje Kessels only comes out now, over a century after she was raped and murdered. If people would be encouraged to think about authority less uncritically, then cases of child abuse might go down.

5. How would you end poverty if you had the power? UK-based charity Oxfam says the world’s 100 richest people earned enough in 2012 to end global poverty four times over. So, according to these Oxfam figures, if these 100 people would give up 25% of their yearly income, then they still would have plenty of money left to buy private warship yachts, private planes, private Hawaiian islands, etc.

6. When did you realize you wanted to write? Already as a pre-teen, I wrote stories and poems.

7. What is your favorite dessert? Fruit salad.

8. Who was the greatest influence in your life? My mother; with her subscriptions to bird and wildlife magazines, and much more.

9. What was your favorite subject in school? Biology.

10. If you could live anywhere on earth, where would that be and why? There are many beautiful places. I spent wonderful spring days around Tavira in the Algarve in Portugal. I saw fantastic migratory birds and nesting swallows. I saw medieval architecture and poetry as well. On the other hand, the weather there in mid summer might be too hot.

11. Do you like winning these awards? Yes!

My eleven nominees are:

1. usmanhashmi

2. The Panama Adventure

3. margosnotebook

4. Ruth E Hendricks Photography

5. Miss Ayo Délé

6. Flowers, Trees, & Other Such Gifts of Nature

7. Oil Pastels by Mary

8. Sunlight in winter

9. roy thoman

10. La Photographie de Mode

11. Life For a Forest

My eleven questions for my nominees are:

1. If you are a WordPress blogger: did you blog somewhere else before you started your WordPress blog?

2. If yes to question #1, what are the main differences between your previous blog site and WordPress?

3. Do you think you are using all WordPress features which might be useful?

4. Do you know how many “likes” your blog got so far? If so, how? This is an important question for me, as some bloggers know, and I don’t have any idea how many “likes” my blog got so far :)

5, Do you use the Get Polling Polldaddy feature?

6. If so, is it working well on your site? I tried Polldaddy, but somehow it did not work well on my site :)

7. What is your favourite animal species?

8. What is your favourite plant species?

9. Did you ever make a blog post which you expected would get few visitors, but which on the contrary got many views?

10. Did you ever make a blog post which you expected would get many visitors, but which on the contrary got few views?

11. What is your favourite song?

New Antarctic penguin discoveries

This video is called Adelie Penguins of Paulet Island, Antarctica.

From Antarctic Science:

16 January 2013

Large-scale occupancy surveys in East Antarctica discover new Adélie penguin breeding sites and reveal an expanding breeding distribution

Colin Southwell and Louise Emmerson

Australian Antarctic Division, 203 Channel Highway, Kingston, TAS 7050 Australia


Knowledge of spatial distribution is fundamental to ecological studies and crucial for conservation and management of species and biodiversity, but detailed, large-scale spatial data are lacking for most taxa. Although the Adélie penguin is one of the most intensively studied Antarctic vertebrates, spatial data that could aid in ecological study and conservation management are incomplete. We undertook a large-scale survey of the current breeding distribution of Adélie penguins along 3800 km of the East Antarctic coastline

The survey increased the number of known breeding locations by 50% and revealed that the breeding distribution has expanded in some parts of the survey region over the past two to three decades. The expanding breeding distribution may reflect underlying population dynamics of sustained growth and resultant density dependent effect on dispersal and movement from established breeding sites to new sites. The comprehensive, large-scale distribution data from this study will form a baseline for assessing any future changes in Adélie penguin breeding distribution, provide data for developing spatial models for predicting future changes in breeding distribution under plausible scenarios of environmental change, and contribute to the development of metapopulation models by providing estimates of local colonization and extinction probabilities under specific conditions of metapopulation change.

Big Meteorite Discovered in Antarctica: here.

Triassic wildlife after mass extinction

This video is called Excavating Triassic Fossils in Antarctica.

From ANI news agency:

Ups and downs of biodiversity after mass extinction unveiled

Saturday 22nd December, 2012

Marine animal groups like ammonoids and conodonts already peaked three or four million years earlier, namely still during the Early Triassic, researchers say.

The climate after the largest mass extinction so far 252 million years ago was cool, later very warm and cool again. Thanks to the cooler temperatures, the diversity of marine fauna ballooned, as paleontologists from the University of Zurich have reconstructed.

The warmer climate, coupled with a high CO2 level in the atmosphere, initially gave rise to new, short-lived species. In the longer term, however, this climate change had an adverse effect on biodiversity and caused species to become extinct.

Until now, it was always assumed that it took flora and fauna a long time to recover from the vast mass extinction at the end of the Permian geological period 252 million years ago.

According to the scientific consensus, complex ecological communities only began to reappear in the Middle Triassic, so 247 million years ago.

However, a Swiss team headed by paleontologist Hugo Bucher from the University of Zurich chart the temperature curves, demonstrating that the climate and the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere fluctuated greatly during the Early Triassic and what impact this had on marine biodiversity and terrestrial plants.

For their climate reconstruction, Bucher and his colleagues analyzed the composition of the oxygen isotopes in conodonts, the remains of chordates that once lived in the sea. According to the study, the climate at the beginning of the Triassic 249 million years ago was cool.

This cooler phase was followed by a brief very warm climate phase. At the end of the Early Triassic, namely between 247.9 and 245.9 million years ago, cooler conditions had resumed.

The scientists then examined the impact of the climate on the development of flora and fauna.

“Biodiversity increased most in the cooler phases,” Bucher said.

“The subsequent extremely warm phase, however, led to great changes in the marine fauna and a major ecological shift in the flora,” he said.

Bucher and his team can reveal that this decline in biodiversity in the warm phases correlates with strong fluctuations in the carbon isotope composition of the atmosphere.

These, in turn, were directly related to carbon dioxide gases, which stemmed from volcanic eruptions in the Siberian Large Igneous Province.

Through the climatic changes, conodont and ammonoid faunae were initially able to recover very quickly during the Early Triassic as unusually short-lived species emerged. However, the removal of excess CO2 by primary producers such as algae and terrestrial plants had adverse effects in the long run: The removal of these vast amounts of organic matter used up the majority of the oxygen in the water. Due to the lack of oxygen in the oceans, many marine species died out.

“Our studies reveal that greater climatic changes can lead to both the emergence and extinction of species. Thus, it is important to consider both extinction rates and the rate at which new species emerged,” Bucher added.

The study has been published in Nature Geoscience.

More than 200 million years ago, a massive extinction decimated 76 percent of marine and terrestrial species, marking the end of the Triassic period and the onset of the Jurassic. The event cleared the way for dinosaurs to dominate Earth for the next 135 million years, taking over ecological niches formerly occupied by other marine and terrestrial species: here.

New emperor penguin colonies discovered

This video is called Emperor penguins – The Greatest Wildlife Show on Earth – BBC.

By on Birding / Wild Birds:

New Penguin Colonies Located

November 24, 2012

Penguin lovers have reason to be thankful this month with the discovery of two new emperor penguin breeding sites. According to ScienceDaily, the two colonies in Antarctica are home to 6,000 previously unknown chicks, which effectively triples the number of breeding emperor penguins believed to be in the area.

Emperor penguins are colonial nesters that breed in tremendous flocks, returning to the same nesting site year after year. When Antarctic ice changes disrupt those colonies, the birds can struggle to breed safely. In 2010 a large glacier fractured, and it was feared that emperor penguin numbers would drastically decline as a result.

Want to add the emperor penguin to your life list? Learn where in the world you can see penguins!

Emperor penguins Aptenodytes forsteri are able to survive the harsh Antarctic climate because of specialized anatomical, physiological and behavioural adaptations for minimizing heat loss: here.

Emperor Penguins: Encounters in the Antarctic Wilderness: here.

Tallest penguin discovery in Antarctica

This video is called Giant Penguin Fossil Reconstructed in New Zealand.

From AFP news agency today:

Giant penguin fossils found in Antarctica

7 hours ago

BUENOS AIRES — Argentine experts have discovered the fossils of a two-meter (6.5 foot) tall penguin that lived in Antarctica 34 million years ago.

Paleontologists with the Natural Sciences Museum of La Plata province, where the capital Buenos Aires is located, said the remains were found on the icy southern continent.

“This is the largest penguin known to date in terms of height and body mass,” said researcher Carolina Acosta, who noted that the record had been held by emperor penguins, which reach heights of 1.2 meters (4 feet) tall.

Lead researcher Marcelo Reguero added that the find, announced Tuesday, will “allow for a more intensive and complex study of the ancestors of modern penguins.”

In its next expedition to Antarctica, during the region’s summer, the team will seek additional fossils of the newly discovered species, as well as information about its anatomy and how the giant penguin might have moved.

Previous finds from prehistoric penguins indicated they did not sport the iconic black and white feathers the birds are known for today, but had reddish-brown and gray plumage.