An ancient antarctic microbe that has survived a million and a half years with no food, heat and sunlight has been discovered.
The fact that organisms can survive in extreme — seemingly lethal — conditions is nothing new. Researchers have found creatures living at boiling vents on the floor of the ocean, in desert sands that virtually never see water; fossilized remains of microorganisms have even been found inside of rocks. Antarctic life, however, has always been a more complex matter. Antarctica was once a warmer, wetter land than it is now, but continental migration pushed it from place to place, leaving it — for the current epoch at least — at the bottom of the planet, where it became little more than a frozen desert. Its valleys are some of the driest places on the Earth, receiving less than 4 inches of precipitation per year. Species that thrived when Antarctica was green would have been entirely wiped out, unless they could adapt — and fast.
A million and a half dirt nap is an impressive feat, not the least because such extremophiles could hold implications for life elsewhere.