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Astrobiology. 2007 Apr;7(2):275-311.

Microbial populations in Antarctic permafrost: biodiversity, state, age, and implication for astrobiology.

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Institutes of Physicochemical and Biological Problems in Soil Science, Russian Academy of Sciences, Pushchino, Moscow Region, Russia. gilichin@online


Antarctic permafrost soils have not received as much geocryological and biological study as has been devoted to the ice sheet, though the permafrost is more stable and older and inhabited by more microbes. This makes these soils potentially more informative and a more significant microbial repository than ice sheets. Due to the stability of the subsurface physicochemical regime, Antarctic permafrost is not an extreme environment but a balanced natural one. Up to 10(4) viable cells/g, whose age presumably corresponds to the longevity of the permanently frozen state of the sediments, have been isolated from Antarctic permafrost. Along with the microbes, metabolic by-products are preserved. This presumed natural cryopreservation makes it possible to observe what may be the oldest microbial communities on Earth. Here, we describe the Antarctic permafrost habitat and biodiversity and provide a model for martian ecosystems.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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