New lake excites Icelandic biologists

A new lake has appeared over recent years in Iceland and scientists have now confirmed that it already contains life.

The new lake has been names Blavatn (Blue Lake) and it is located at Oki on the Kaldidalur route across the Highlands. It is the highest lake in Iceland, at 1,114 metres above sea level, and it is an average of three metres deep throughout.

Diatoms, rotifers and tardigrades have been found living in the water, according to a RUV report.

Hilmar Malmquist, biologist and director of the Kopavogur natural history institute, stumbled upon the lake in August 2007. He says that the crater at Oki used to be filled with a glacier, but that it has now melted into a lake. He said in an interview that it is extremely interesting to research the colonisation of life into a brand new habitat: which creatures take hold first, how long it takes, and what creatures follow them.

The most successful species so far seems to be the diatoms; as 15 subspecies have already been identified in Blavatn. There are two types of rotifer — but the stand-out species is the tardigrade, which is especially hardy and pernicious. It is considered likely that the tardigrades have been lying dormant in the area for hundreds of years; just waiting for the right conditions for life. Dormant tardigrades can withstand boiling temperatures, cosmic radiation and temperatures close to absolute zero. Tardigrades are, in fact, due to be sent to Mars with a Russian rocket on 8th November on a four-year mission to see if they survive all the way back to Earth again.