Updated at 5 p.m. ET
MOSCOW (AP) -- A new form of microbial life has been found in water samples taken from a giant freshwater lake hidden under kilometers of Antarctic ice, Russian scientists said Monday.
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Sergei Bulat and Valery Lukin said in a statement that the "unidentified and unclassified" bacterium has no relation to any of the existing bacterial types. They acknowledged, however, that extensive research of the microbe that was sealed under the ice for millions of years will be necessary to prove the find and determine the bacterium's characteristics.
New samples of water retrieved from Lake Vostok earlier this year are expected to be delivered to St. Petersburg in May aboard a Russian ship.
The Russian team reached the surface of the subglacial lake in February 2012 after more than two decades of drilling, a major achievement hailed by scientists around the world.
They touched the lake water Sunday at a depth of 12,366 feet (3,769 meters), about 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) east of the South Pole in the central part of the continent.