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Warm Antarctic caves harbor secret life of plants, animals and unknown species: scientists

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A secret world of animals and plants — including unknown species — may live in warm caves under Antarctica’s glaciers, scientists said Friday.

The caves, hollowed out by steam from active volcanoes, are light and could reach temperatures of 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit), researchers said, raising the possibility of a whole ecosystem of flora and fauna deep beneath the frozen surface.

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A study led by the Australian National University around Mount Erebus, an active volcano on Ross Island in Antarctica, showed extensive cave systems.

Lead researcher Ceridwen Fraser said forensic analyses of soil samples from the caves had revealed intriguing traces of DNA from algae, mosses and small animals.

While most of the DNA was similar to mosses, algae and invertebrates found elsewhere in Antarctica, not all sequences could be fully identified.

“The results from this study give us a tantalising glimpse of what might live beneath the ice in Antarctica -– there might even be new species of animals and plants,” she said.

“The next step is to go and have a really good look and see if we can find communities living beneath the ice in Antarctica.”

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Despite the continent’s freezing temperatures, Fraser said heat emanating from the volcanoes could make the caves quite hospitable, warm enough “to wear a t-shirt and be comfortable”, with light filtering deep down where the overlying ice was thin.

Co-researcher Charles Lee, from the University of Waikato in New Zealand, said there were many other volcanoes in Antarctica, so subglacial cave systems could be common.

“We don’t yet know just how many cave systems exist around Antarctica’s volcanoes, or how interconnected these subglacial environments might be,” he said.

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“They’re really difficult to identify, get to and explore.”

The research, published in international journal Polar Biology, said there were more than 15 volcanoes in Antarctica that were either known to be currently active or show evidence of recent activity, with new ones continuing to be found.

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But despite recent advances in understanding Antarctic biodiversity, scientists still know “little about life in the continent’s subglacial cave systems, which may harbour diverse and complex communities”.

“Our results highlight the importance of investigating these cave systems in greater detail — despite the field challenges associated with such an endeavour – to confirm the presence of living macrobiota,” it said.


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2020 Election

Here is why these Nevadans are betting on Sanders

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LAS VEGAS — Any doubts that Nevadans wouldn't show up for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) were quickly squashed by the amount of people lined up to get into his Friday night rally in Las Vegas on the eve of the Nevada caucus: an estimated 2,020, according to his campaign. One would have been forgiven for assuming the crowd spilling out the main entrance and down the street had lined up to get into one of the city's hottest shows, not a "Get Out the Vote" event. Despite stereotypes that Sanders only draws support from the young (and mostly white), the crowd was visibly diverse in age, ethnicity and race. And anyone who didn't arrive already wearing the requisite Bernie gear had plenty of opportunities to buy some as they waited to enter the venue.

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Breaking Banner

Roger Stone’s dream of booting judge for sentencing comments brutally crushed by ex-US Attorney: ‘He’s met his match’

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Appearing on MSNBC on Saturday afternoon, former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance crushed any hopes former Donald Trump associate Roger Stone might have that his prison sentence will be voided due to comments made by the presiding judge in his federal trial.

Speaking with host Alex Witt, Vance left no doubt Stone's latest legal gambit will collapse just like his previous attempts to squirm out of his trial did.

"Stone's legal team says that Judge Amy Berman Jackson's assertion that the jurors served with integrity shows bias," host Witt stated. "Do you buy that argument and legally would that be enough to get the judge dismissed from the case?"

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Commentary

You’re a frog in a pot and Donald Trump is turning up the heat

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Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.

"Trump has instructed his White House to identify and force out officials across his administration who are not seen as sufficiently loyal," reported The Washington Post this week. It's one element in "a post-impeachment escalation that administration officials say reflects a new phase of a campaign of retribution and restructuring ahead of the November election." It's unclear what criteria they are using to define loyalty to this president*, but it's important to understand a few things about this story.

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