Extremophiles Earth and Outer Space

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Most life on earth lives in moderate conditions of temperature, acidity and even humidity. But some plants and animals can tolerate extreme heat, cold, acidity, lack of oxygen and other outlying conditions to the norm on our planet Earth. Extremophiles are organisms of any kind that can tolerate conditions that most life on our planet cannot.

Categories of such organisms are defined by the condition they can tolerate. Here they are:

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• Thermophiles are adapted to heat. Some can be found in deep sea vents. One example is a tiny octopus that lives in volcanically active ocean vents and tolerates extreme temperatures. Venus has very hot temperatures. Many planets like Venus are close to the stars they orbit about. Though Venus has an atmosphere very toxic for just about all of Earth’s creatures, the vent octopus gives us hope that we can find life on Venus-like planets (DiveDiscover).

• Psychrophiles can tolerate extreme cold like. These organisms are adapted to cold, and live in places like polar seas. Polar microalgae can survive in such environments. Photosynthetic autotrophs are at the bottom of the food web and can offer sustenance to other organisms which are more highly developed. They are adapted to grow, reproduce and maintain active metabolisms in extremely cold environments in which most life on our planet cannot function. Space has no heat. And places like the moon which don’t have an atmosphere that can hold heat are potential habitats for psychrophiles.

• Acidophiles are quite happy to live in highly acidic places. Examples are Venus and other places like our own planet Earth, which has increasingly acidic conditions and volcanic landscapes (Deziel). An acidophile example is a bacillus found in the intestines of both cows and humans. Most likely it is used for digesting food.

These three extreme organisms in the extremophile category give us hope of finding life in extremely hostile environments on other planets.

  • DiveDiscover. Vent Ecosystems. 2014. http://www.divediscover.whoi.edu/expedition15/hottopics/ecosystems.html
  • Chris Deziel. Which Planet Has Acid Rainfall. http://sciencing.com/planet-acid-rain-fall-3700.html

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