Friday, March 08, 2013

Links 08/03/13

'Deep in water-filled underground caves beneath Australia's Nullarbor Plain, cave divers have discovered unusual 'curtains' of biological material – known as Nullarbor cave slimes.

The research team says this analysis shows that the organisms make up the Weebubbie cave slime community make their living in a very unusual way – by oxidizing ammonia in the salty cave water – and are completely independent of sunlight and ecosystems on the surface.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-03-strange-alien-slime-beneath-nullarbor.html#jCp
The research team says this analysis shows that the organisms make up the Weebubbie cave slime community make their living in a very unusual way – by oxidizing ammonia in the salty cave water – and are completely independent of sunlight and ecosystems on the surface.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-03-strange-alien-slime-beneath-nullarbor.html#jCp
'The research team says . . . that the organisms make up the Weebubbie cave slime community make their living in a very unusual way – by oxidizing ammonia in the salty cave water – and are completely independent of sunlight and ecosystems on the surface.'
Anyone interested in exobiology will have noticed that organisms able to live in salt-water rich in ammonia without any input from light-driven photosynthesis might be suited to conditions believed to be found in oceans beneath the surface of moons in the outer Solar System.  Astronomer Mike Brown has just posted a long, three-part description of research that suggests the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa is rich in salts subducted from the ocean known to exist beneath its surface, and that the chemistry of the leading hemisphere of the moon is further modified by sulphur that has been lofted into orbit by the volcanoes of Io:

'Ever wonder what it would taste like if you could lick the icy surface of Jupiter’s Europa? The answer may be that it would taste a lotlike that last mouthful of water that you accidentally drank when you wereswimming at the beach on your last vacation. Just don’t take too long of a taste. At nearly 300 degrees (F) below zero your tongue will stick fast.'
A shorter take on the significance of the work can be found here: basically, Europa's ocean may closely resemble the salty oceans of Earth.

Back on Earth, Russian scientists have discovered life in the largest subglacial lake in Antarctica. Permanently capped by ice four miles thick, isolated from any inputs from the surface for up to 15 million years, the lake appears to harbour bacterial life new to science.
'Preliminary analysis of water samples collected from the lake revealed a species of bacteria not belonging to any known subkingdoms."We call it unidentified and 'unclassified' life," the team's leader, Sergei Bulat of the St. Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute, told Russian news agency RIA Novosti. The bacteria's DNA was less than 86% similar to known bacterial DNA, indicating that it was a new species, Bulat said.'
[Edit 10/03/13 The  head of the genetics laboratory that's studying the samples has issued a swift rebuttal stating that the 'unknown organisms' are in fact lab contaminants.]
Deep in water-filled underground caves beneath Australia's Nullarbor Plain, cave divers have discovered unusual 'curtains' of biological material – known as Nullarbor cave slimes.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-03-strange-alien-slime-beneath-nullarbor.html#jCp

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