Scientists from the University of Aberystwyth, Wales, involved in Antarctic research have found ‘methane-eating’ bacteria that act as a kind of biological filter in water samples from Lake Whillans. These potentially beneficial bacteria flourish in the lake which was discovered 800 m under West Antarctic Ice Sheet at the southeastern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf in 2013. The bacteria are attracting attention because methane is a powerful greenhouse gas when released into the atmosphere.

Andrew Mitchell, from Aberystwyth University and co-author of the paper that describes the findings, was a member of the mission that first drilled down to the lake: “The really interesting finding is that while methane production is significant, most of the methane produced, about 99%, is actually oxidised by methanotrophs, which are microbes that live off and use up the methane and produce carbon dioxide in the process.”

Read more on the University of Aberystwyth website.

Scientific paper in Nature Geoscience.

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