“Extremophiles were first discovered just 40 years ago in the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park. Since their discovery, scientists around the world have worked to find how extremophiles might be useful to humans, and how they might harm humans. Thermophiles were the first extremophile to be discovered, but other extremophiles have been found living in ice, deep under the surface of the ocean, in salty environments, and in environments with both high and low Ph levels. The United States, Germany, and Japan are three of the countries that are searching for extremophiles. Scientists have found a few extremozymes that can be used today. As scientists continue to search, they will find more.
When these organisms were found living in harsh environments that would kill any other organism, scientists began trying to understand how they were able to survive. The proteins inside extremophiles each adapted to the habitat where the extremophile lived. It was discovered that each type of extremophile had enzymes that were resistant to extreme heat, saline, acids, high/low Ph, and high barometric pressure.
Since extremophiles use proteins in different ways than other microorganisms do, scientists are working on adding a sixth kingdom in the classification of life just for the extremophiles. This classification will be called archea and it will include all prokaryotic and eukaryotic extremophiles.”
– from History of Extremophiles
“Tardigrades (or “water bears”) are polyextremophiles and are able to survive in extreme environments that would kill almost any other animal. Some can survive temperatures close to absolute zero, temperatures as high as 151 °C (303 °F), 1,000 times more radiation than any other animal, nearly a decade without water, and even the vacuum of space.” <wiki>
The Deep Ocean: a ribbon of life (David Gallo) –
More on underwater astonishments.
“Astrobiology is the field concerned with forming theories, such as panspermia, about the distribution, nature, and future of life in the universe. In it, microbial ecologists, astronomers, planetary scientists, geochemists, philosophers, and explorers cooperate to constructively guide the search for life on other planets. Astrobiologists are particularly interested in studying extremophiles, as many organisms of this type are capable of surviving in environments similar to those known to exist on other planets. For example, Mars may have regions in its deep subsurface permafrost that could harbor endolith communities. The subsurface water ocean of Jupiter’s moon Europa may harbor life, especially at hypothesized hydrothermal vents at the ocean floor.” <wiki>
- What is exobiology?
- The Search for Extremophiles on Earth and Beyond: What is extreme here may be just business-as-usual elsewhere by Penelope Boston
- Does Life Exist Elsewhere in the Universe? (California Academy of Sciences)
Antarctic ‘resources’ at risk — Antarctic organisms face an onslaught by prospectors anxious to exploit their unique nature, the United Nations says. <link>