So it’s not exactly like John Carpenter’s The Thing, but researchers have found what is a clearly different variety of bacteria in Lake Vostok samples taken during the famed expedition in 2012. After removing variables for contamination and misclassification, researchers are unable to group the Vostok bacteria with any kind presently known on Earth.
Lake Vostok is the world’s largest subglacial lake, which has been frozen at the surface for at least a million years, though it retains a deep pool of liquid water. (The lake was the setting for the aforementioned 80s horror movie, which featured the most genuinely terrifying special effects of my childhood.) Last year, a Russian team of researchers drilled more than two miles deep into the lake, taking samples before the “warm season” ended. It is from these samples that the new bacteria was discovered, which is reportedly “less than 86 percent” similar in DNA to any existing forms.
Of course, this type of discovery is exactly the reason Lake Vostok was tapped. Peering into an isolated ecosystem — and speculating about what it might harbor — has been a hot topic not only among scientists, but is one of the founding concepts of science fiction, as well. We don’t expect that this will be the last big news to come from Russia’s Lake Vostok researchers, but it’s a hell of a start.