In an upcoming issue of the journal Geobiology, UC Davis geologist Dawn Sumner, Dale Andersen of the SETI Institute and colleagues will describe strange and unique life forms under the ice of Lake Untersee in Antarctica. They are stromatolites, a form of microbial life that over hundreds or even thousands of years has built orange-cone shaped mounds in the lake. (Read a full story about the discovery in Science News.)
Stromatolites are now rare on Earth, but are one of the earliest forms of life to leave a trace in the fossil record. So seeing them is like being able to travel back in time to the beginnings of life three billion years ago, Sumner told Science News.
Sumner and Andersen have also been studying microbial life in other Antarctic lakes, such as Lake Joyce. But Lake Untersee seems to be unique. The team plans to return their for another field season in November.