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The Natural History Museum

Scientists have used bacterial samples collected on a 1902 expedition to Antarctica to study how climate change is affecting one of Earth's most extreme environments. They found the bacteria hadn't changed significantly over the century, suggesting they may be better adapted for climate change than microbes from other ecosystems.

Why it matters: As the climate and Antarctica continue to change, says study author Anne Jungblut, the more we know about the continent's past, the better we'll understand it's future. "These cyanobacteria are at the bottom of the food chain. They're photosynthetic and they create vibrant ecosystems with microscopic organisms in them. They're a keystone species."

The study: In 1902, Captain Robert Falcon Scott went farther into Antarctica than any had gone before. He brought home meticulous notes and biological samples of photosynthetic bacteria collected from meltwater lakes. Jungblut and her team used Scott's notes to retrace his expedition, and gather samples from the same areas he visited. They then compared the diversity and genes of the ancient and modern specimens.

What they found: Roughly the same bacteria were present in the 100-year-old samples and the modern ones, and their genes hadn't evolved much. Jungblut thinks the bacteria that live in Antarctica evolved for an environment of change, with subfreezing winter temperatures punctuated with periods of melt. These bacteria might be better adapted for climate change than microbes from less hardy ecosystems. Although they found more species in modern samples than in the historic samples, there appeared to be very little cross-contamination from non-Antarctic bacteria. The paper was published Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

The big question: "A big question is how might Antarctic biodiversity be affected by environmental change," Jungblut tells Axios. In the 100 years since Scott's expedition, humans have made major changes to the Antarctic ecosystem. Temperatures have risen, a hole in the ozone layer has formed over the continent, and invasive species have hitched rides on tourists. But somehow, these bacteria have remained relatively unchanged.

Go deeper

Updated 41 mins ago - World

Brazil senators vote to recommend criminal charges for Bolsonaro

Brazilian senators vote on probe into President Bolsonaro's handling of pandemic. Photo: Gustavo Minas/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Brazilian Senate committee Tuesday voted to approve a report recommending President Jair Bolsonaro be charged with a raft of criminal indictments, including crimes against humanity over his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, per AP.

Why it matters: Bolsonaro has become the face of a right-wing approach to the pandemic that includes repudiating vaccines and masks and resisting lockdowns and other mitigation measures. The Senate report holds him personally responsible for half of the country's 600,000 deaths.

Former Georgetown tennis coach pleads guilty to accepting admissions bribes

Gordon Ernst (left) former head tennis coach at Georgetown, outside a courthouse in Boston in 2019. Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

A former Georgetown University head tennis coach has pleaded guilty Tuesday to bribery charges related to facilitating the admission of prospective applicants.

Why it matters: Gordon Ernst solicited and accepted bribes from William Singer, ringleader of the cheating scheme uncovered by Operation Varsity Blues, and families in exchange for helping prospective applicants get into Georgetown as student athletes, according to the Justice Department.

7 hours ago - Health

CDC says some immunocompromised people can get fourth COVID shot

Photo: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in updated guidelines Tuesday that some immunocompromised people who have received either Pfizer or Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines will be able to get a fourth shot.

Details: People over 18 who are "moderately to severely immunocompromised" and have received three doses of an mRNA vaccine may get a fourth shot (of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines) at least six months after getting their third Pfizer or Moderna dose, per the CDC.