The newly discovered bacterium Herminiimonas glaciei was revived in the ice after over 120, 000 years. Photo: Jennifer Loveland-Curtze, Pennsylvania State University in Park
Reading a US American researcher has succeeded in bringing a bacterium back to life after a 120, 000-year hibernation in a three kilometer-deep layer of ice in Greenland. Herminiimonas glaciei, the so-called unknown bacterium, is one of only five known members of the genus Herminiimonas, a group of microorganisms that live in mineral and spring water. Herminiimonas glaciei is so far the only kind of this kind, which was found in the Greenland ice. By surviving under these harsh, cold conditions, the bacterium could shed light on the existence of life on other planets, study director Jennifer Loveland-Curtze believes. The researchers needed a lot of patience until they saw colonies of the pink-brown bacterium. Using a filter for extremely small particles, they isolated the tiny creature from an ice sample from a depth of 3, 042 meters and allowed it to grow at two degrees Celsius for seven months. After another four and a half months, some bacterial cultures had recovered and formed thin and movable rods. The microorganisms were extremely small, smaller than many viruses and about 10 to 50 times smaller than Escherichia coli, a bacterium from the human intestine.

Perhaps it is just his size that has allowed the microorganism to survive in the ice, says Loveland-Curtze. She assumes that Herminiimonas glaciei lived in fine water veins between ice crystals. His scourges might have helped him to move in the waterways and find food. The snow also contains remnants of fungal or plant spores, other bacterial cells, dust and minerals that may have fed Herminiimonas glaciei. Because of its small size, the bacterium could possibly occupy a place for which most other living things would have been too large.

Scientists speculate that similar microorganisms in the ice may have originated on other planets than Earth, such as in ice at poles on Mars or an ice-covered ocean on Europe, a Jupiter's moon. The results of this study could also shed light on how cells behave under these extremely harsh conditions? Temperatures down to minus 56 degrees Celsius, low oxygen, low nutrients, high pressure and limited space? survive or even grow. Another thing that makes Herminiimonas glaciei interesting for research is that the bacterium, which has been completely isolated for more than 100, 000 years, is resistant to the majority of conventional antibiotics. Why, the researchers do not know yet.

Jennifer Loveland-Curtze (Pennsylvania State University in Park) et al .: International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, doi: 10.1099 / ijs.0.001685-0 ddp / science.de? Stefanie shrub display

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