Glaciers "harbour a wealth of microbial life"

There are around 51 million cubic km of glacier ice on Earth. Credit: Hinrich Basemann/DPA/PA Images

Scientists at Aberystwyth University have calculated there may be around a septillion, that's a trillion trillion, microbes living in the uppermost 2m of Earth’s glaciers.

They say there may be as many microbes at glacier surfaces as there are in the top 200m of the world’s oceans.

Dr Arwyn Evans (L) Dr Tristram Irvine-Fynn (R) Credit: Aberystwyth University

Drs Tristram Irvine-Fynn (Department of Geography and Earth Sciences) and Arwyn Edwards (Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences) have presented revised estimates of the number of microbes in Earth’s glaciers and ice sheet.

Their findings are in a paper published online this week in the journal Cytometry Part A.

Dr Tristram Irvine-Fynn:

“Most of life on Earth is microscopic, and we know there are more microbes on planet Earth than stars in the observable Universe.”