Incredibly the bacteria are still alive.
So this makes them very valuable for studying how life can survive in extreme environments - both here on Earth and in other parts of the solar system.
This is because with small size comes larger surface-to-volume ratio.
Microbes form a third or more of the Earth's biomass.
The overall endeavour to discover, cultivate and use the special features of these organisms.
They have been recovered from ice-cores taken from two miles beneath the surface of the glacier.
Have a listen to NASA talking about the Goldilocks zone. Prepare a short presentation that includes the answers to these questions: What is the Goldilocks Zone? Why is it getting bigger all the time? Give a few examples.
What are the most likely places to find life outside the Earth? Where are scientists looking now? Where would you look first, if you were an astronomer, and how would you start the search? Have a listen here for a start, and take a look here.
Surface to volume ratio is important to all kinds of animals. Prepare a poster that shows the advantages and disadvantages of a high surface to volume ratio. Include as many as you can of bacteria, insects, reptiles, shrews and elephants. There's a nice explanation here. For more, try searching both Google and Google Images.
Research the contribution that different types of living things - bacteria, plants, insects, krill, humans, etc.- make to the total biomass of Earth. Create a coloured pie-chart of your findings. Take a look here and here. (Note that "biomass" often means something different nowadays - namely plant material used to produce energy.)
Research and present the ways in which microbes are useful to humans now, and could be even more so in the future. What would be the biggest scientific breakthrough, in your opinion, in the use of microbes to improve human health or happiness? Take a look here for a start
Imagine you are one of the scientists working on the ice-cores from the Greenland glacier. Write a blog entry for one day. [Take a look first at a few blogs written by scientists doing this kind of work: GISP2, Greenland and ice-core are good keywords to search on. This 6-minute drilling video is interesting.]
3-Jun-2008 00:00 Eastern US Time
The research is presented today by Jennifer Loveland-Curtze at the 108th American Society for Microbiology General Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts. She is senior research associate in the laboratory led by Jean Brenchley, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State University. The research team also includes senior research associate Vanya Miteva.
The new species is one of the ultra-small bacteria that have puzzled scientists for years. These are so tiny that they pass through microbiological filters. Some species have even been found living in the highly purified water used for dialysis.
"Ultra-small cells could be unknown contaminants in media and medical solutions that are thought to have been sterilised using filters," said Loveland-Curtze.
The size of the new species helped it to survive for so long in the harsh conditions of the Greenland glacier. "Small microbial cell size is considered to be advantageous for more efficient nutrient uptake in oligotrophic conditions," write the scientists. This is because with small size comes "larger surface-to-volume ratio, protection against predators and occupation of microenvironments".
Chryseobacterium greenlandensis is related genetically to types of bacteria found in fish, marine mud and the roots of some plants. It is one of only about 10 scientifically described new species discovered in polar ice and glaciers.
To study the bacteria in the laboratory the research team filtered out the cells from the melted ice. They then incubated them in cold, solutions that had no oxygen and very few nutrients. The final steps were to study the genes, the physiology, the biochemistry and the structure of the bacteria.
The research team have demonstrated that this painstaking procedure works for elusive micro-organisms. So it can now be used to learn much more about them - "their metabolic properties and mechanisms for long-term survival under extreme conditions."