Extremophiles are living organisms that can thrive in environmental conditions that are inhospitable to most lifeforms. These species may be animals, plants or bacteria; the unusual conditions in which they may persist can involve extreme salinity, acidity, temperature, radiation or pressure. Such occurrences may take place in such unusual climate regimes as Antarctica, or in such unusual geographic features as hypersaline lakes.
They may also be found at extreme ocean depths where high pressures and unusual chemical environments, such as near hydrothermal ocean vents, are encountered. The image to the right shows tubeworms found near such hydrothermal vents.
An extremophile is an organism adapted to unusual limits of one or more abiotic factors in the environment. Some of the extreme conditions are temperature, pH, high salinity,...
Atacama DesertLast Updated on 2013-10-29 21:15:01
The Atacama Desert is an irregular elongated strip of desert along the northwest coast of Chile, essentially bounded by the Pacific Ocean on the west. It extends nearly 1600 kilometres (km) and reaches a maximum width of 180 km. In many areas rainfall has never been recorded, and the Atacama is considered one of the driest deserts in the world. Consequently, an extremely arid, almost barren, landscape predominates. Despite the aridity of this desert, some cacti (Eulychnia), perennials (Nolana), and mesquite (Prosopis) occur in basins where occasional water accumulation occurs. Relatively few animal species have adapted to this arid environment and therefore, faunal diversity and density is extremely low. Even bacteria are scarce, and in many portions of the desert insects and fungi are absent. The intrinsic value of the Atacama Desert's plant and animal communities lies in the... More »
BacteriaLast Updated on 2013-07-12 03:45:42
Bacteria are any of a very large group of single-celled microorganisms that display a wide range of metabolic types, geometric shapes and environmental habitats—and niches—of occurrence. Normally only several micrometers in length, bacteria assume the form of spheres, rods, spirals and other shapes. Bacteria are found in a very broad gamut of habitats; for example, bacterial extremophiles that thrive in such places as hot springs, arctic environments, radioactive waste, deep sea oil seeps, deep Earth crustal environments, hypersaline ponds and within other living organisms. There are approximately 50 million bacterial organisms in a single gram of typical surface soil. The worldwide bacterial biomass exceeds that of all plants and animals on Earth. However, the majority of bacteria have not yet been characterised,
Bacteria are members of the prokaryote... More »
Microbial life in undersea volcanoesLast Updated on 2013-07-11 11:30:13Many of the lifeforms inhabiting the Earth live in sediments and rocks. The research reported here provides the first detailed data on methane-exhaling microbes that live deep in the cracks of hot undersea volcanoes.
Scientists Define New Limits of
Microbial Life in Undersea Volcanoes
A third of Earth's organisms live in rocks and sediments, but their lives have been a mystery
By some estimates, a third of Earth's organisms live in our planet's rocks and sediments, yet their lives are almost a complete mystery. This week, the work of microbiologist James Holden of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and colleagues shines a light into this dark world. In the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), they report the first detailed data on methane-exhaling microbes that live deep in the cracks of hot undersea volcanoes.
"Evidence has... More »
East African montane moorlandsLast Updated on 2013-02-19 00:00:00
The East African montane moorlands is a relatively small alpine ecoregion in eastern Africa. The habitat is virtually treeless since it occupies a zone above the treeline. This ecoregion, classified as an element of the montane grasslands and scrublands biome, has a land area measuring only about 1300 square miles. The ecoregion, lying at the upper zones of ancient volcanoes, exhibits low species richness of higher level faunal organisms, but manifests moderate plant and animal endemism, including support of certain extremophiles. There is particularly high endemism among amphibians and small mammals of the ecoregion. Many of the plant species that occur in the ecoregion have adapted interesting morphological features to allow survival in the extreme cold here.
The upper elevations of the ecoregion have persistent glacial cover. Although some of the ecoregion (e.g. Mount... More »
Burnt CapeLast Updated on 2012-06-29 00:00:00
The Burnt Cape is a limestone barren headland on the extreme northwest of the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland, Canada. The prevailing harsh cold climate and [calcareous] soils have created a natural environment that is hospitable to certain extremophile plant species, many of which are rare or have limited geographic distribution. The site has experienced damage from gravel extraction in the latter part of the twentieth century, although most of the habitat remains [intact]. Due to the need to protect the biodiversity of Burnt Cape from mineral exploitation, the site has been designated as a protected area known as the Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve, by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. There are over 300 plant species present on this inhospitable site, with more than 30 being rare and two being near-endemics.
The dominant rock formation at Burnt Cape is... More »
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