Dale Andersen's Field Reports

Survival Strategies Of An Anoxic Microbial Ecosystem In Lake Untersee, A Potential Analog For Enceladus

By Keith Cowing
Nature via Dale Andersen
May 11, 2022
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Survival Strategies Of An Anoxic Microbial Ecosystem In Lake Untersee, A Potential Analog For Enceladus
The taxonomic composition of the communities at the phyla level. Classified organisms in the figure only include phyla that make up more than 1% of the community.

Lake Untersee located in Eastern Antarctica, is a perennially ice-covered lake. At the bottom of its southern basin lies 20 m of anoxic, methane rich, stratified water, making it a good analog for Enceladus, a moon of Saturn.

Here we present the first metagenomic study of this basin and detail the community composition and functional potential of the microbial communities at 92 m, 99 m depths and within the anoxic sediment. A diverse and well-populated microbial community was found, presenting the potential for Enceladus to have a diverse and abundant community. We also explored methanogenesis, sulfur metabolism, and nitrogen metabolism, given the potential presence of these compounds on Enceladus.

We found an abundance of these pathways offering a variety of metabolic strategies. Additionally, the extreme conditions of the anoxic basin make it optimal for testing spaceflight technology and life detection methods for future Enceladus exploration.

– Full paper: Survival strategies of an anoxic microbial ecosystem in Lake Untersee, a potential analog for Enceladus, Nature (open access)

Dale Andersen’s Antarctic Status Reports (Lake Untersee) – Archive

Astrobiology

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.