Russian claim of new life form in Antarctic lake busted

Just days after announcing they had found a new “unclassified” form of life over 2 miles under Antarctic ice, this claim has been retracted.

AFP: Russia admits no new life form found in Antarctic lake.

Russian scientists on Saturday dismissed initial reports that they had found a wholly new type of bacteria in a mysterious subglacial lake in Antarctica.

Sergei Bulat of the genetics laboratory at the Saint Petersburg Institute of Nuclear Physics had said Thursday that samples obtained from the underground Lake Vostok in May 2012 contained a bacteria bearing no resemblance to existing types.

But the head of the genetics laboratory at the same institute said on Saturday that the strange life forms were in fact nothing but contaminants.

It was a major accomplishment for the Russian science program to reach the lake and complete the drilling. There was much hope that the samples would show something unique. I hate to say this but this press release that the results were just contamination is not nearly as popular as the initial news that a new bacteria was found. I did not cover the initial story because, one, it was out of Russia and that’s a dubious source, two, it was not part of a published piece. It had not been double checked. So, I am a bit surprised to see that the mistake was caught internally before it got too far. However, I suspect many will claim cover up. Because everthing seems to generate conspiracy by default these days.

From Science.

Tip: The Mad Skeptic


  4 comments for “Russian claim of new life form in Antarctic lake busted

  1. March 10, 2013 at 12:23 PM

    In other news, Russian scientists have found a dragon in a garage.

  2. Nos482
    March 10, 2013 at 12:34 PM

    Well, at least no Shoggoth so far…

  3. March 10, 2013 at 4:22 PM

    This is yet another case of persecution by people who refuse to accept the unassailable sanctity of science-by-press-release. Just like what happened to Galileo.

  4. March 10, 2013 at 4:54 PM

    There was an episode from the first season of the X-Files that dealt with a scary version of this story. Imagine a cross between The Thing and The Andromeda Strain. I think it was called “Ice”.

    At any rate, if they are admitting contamination already, I’m all but certain they’ve contaminated the lake and that was an issue they were really trying to avoid. It’s a shame really if that is the case. Maybe the contamination didn’t take place in the lake but somewhere on top.

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