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Russia admits error over possible new life-form in Antarctica

AFP-JIJI

Russian scientists on Saturday dismissed initial reports that they had found a wholly new type of bacteria in a mysterious subglacial lake in Antarctica.

Sergei Bulat of the genetics laboratory at the St. Petersburg Institute of Nuclear Physics had said on Thursday that core samples obtained from the underground Lake Vostok in May 2012 contained a bacteria bearing no resemblance to existing types.

However, the head of the genetics laboratory at the same institute said on Saturday that the unusual life-forms were in fact nothing but contaminants.

“We found certain specimen, although not many,” Vladimir Korolyov told the Interfax news agency.

“All of them were contaminants” that were brought there by the lab during research, he said.

“That is why we cannot say that previously unknown life was found,” he said.

Lake Vostok is the largest subglacial lake in Antarctica and scientists have long wanted to study its ecosystem.

The Russian team drilled an estimated 3.5 km (2.2 miles) to reach the subglacial lake and take the samples last year.

The Russian scientific expedition had been hoping to discover a new life-form at the pristine site in Antarctica and the drilling was of major importance for the prestige to the country’s science program.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin was even given a sample of Lake Vostok water after the drilling was performed.