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Hearty bacteria help make case for life in the extreme

The bottom of a glacier is not the most hospitable place on Earth, but at least two types of bacteria happily live there, according to researchers.

The bacteria -- Chryseobacterium and Paenisporosarcina -- showed signs of respiration in ice made in the laboratory that was designed to simulate as closely as possible the temperatures and nutrient content found at the bottom of Arctic and Antarctic glaciers, said Corien Bakermans, assistant professor of microbiology, Penn State Altoona. She said that carbon dioxide levels in the laboratory-made ice containing the bacteria, which were collected from glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, indicated that respiration was occurring at temperatures ranging from negative 27 to positive 24 degrees Fahrenheit.

While humans obtain energy from sugar, the bacteria in this experiment used acetate, a form of vinegar. Like human respiration, the microbes take in the molecules, extract energy from them and breathe out carbon dioxide as a waste product.

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