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"New" Antarctica Bacteria Now Said to Only Be Contaminant

Late last week, a Russian news outlet reported that scientists at Antarctica's Lake Vostok, buried under miles of ice, said they had found bacteria that appeared to be new to science. Now, the head of that lab has said the signature is actually just contamination, leading outside researchers to say that the Russian team rushed too quickly to announce the possibility of new bacterial life.

Russian news media reported last week that the team had found DNA from a microbe that did not appear in databases and is only 86 percent similar to others on Earth ā€” considered a reliable threshold of new life.

On Monday (March 11), the lab analyzing the finding said it was not new bacteria that generated the signal, but contamination.

"We found certain specimens, although not many. All of them were contaminants," laboratory head Vladimir Korolyov said in a quote attributed in media reports to the Interfax news agency.

The quick backtrack illustrates the danger of bypassing peer review when announcing new results, Peter Doran, an Arctic and Antarctic researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told OurAmazingPlanet.

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