Extremeophiles (and a bit of Astrobiology)

Definition: A term applied to bacteria that inhabit extreme environments such as hot springs, saline flats, undersea vents, and of course caves. These one-celled life forms show remarkable adaptations to not only survive but thrive in places where conditions would be prohibitive for most organic life.
In other areas of the website we've looked at several extremeophile environments including hot springs such as these at Yellowstone, the place most people think of first for extremeophiles.

Here the bright colored bands host extremeophile cyanobacteria.

Image courtesy Wood Hole Oceanographic Institute
 Another classic extremeophile environment is deep sea vents where hot water rises from "black smokers."
Perhaps the most extreme of all these environments is that of outer space. The picture on the left shows fragments of the Murchison meteorite which fell in Australia in 1969. This meteorite is a member of the Carbonaceous Chondrite class meaning that it is a "stony" meteorite containing carbon. Chemical analysis established that the Murchison contains amino acids - the building blocks of life - as well as precursors to DNA and RNA.

For the original article see Cooper and Cronin, 1995 in the references section

Follow this link to learn more about cave dwelling extremeophiles !

Copyright (c) 2004-5 by R. Mark Maslyn
Last Updated October 6, 2005