Antarctica is the coldest, driest, windiest continent on Earth.
The uniquely harsh environments of Antarctica and surrounding islands are home to unique microbial ecologies, which are of interest not only because they are home to new microbes and unique microbial interactions, but also because novel microbial ecologies are a source of new bioactive substances, including antibiotics.
The research team at Ferrari Labs, led by Belinda Ferrari, have discovered bacteria in Antarctica that were literally surviving by living on air alone without the sunlight or geothermal energy that powers all other known ecosystems. This finding, published in the prestigious journal Nature is now challenging the understanding of the nutritional limits required to support life and may change our ideas when pondering the forms extra-terrestrial life might take.
In the future, this may improve our understanding how these air-eating bacteria will respond to human induced and natural change.
Belinda Ferrari joins us to take us through her team’s exciting research, and her amazing experience on her first scientific expedition to Casey station, east Antarctica earlier this year.