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An extremophile is an organism adapted to living in physically or geochemically extreme conditions.
Additional recommended knowledge
Most known extremophiles are microbes. It is estimated that these microbes comprise anywhere from 1/3 to over 1/2 the living biomass (D’Hondt, Ridge2000) on the planet and the populations extend more than 2400 feet below the seafloor. The domain Archaea contains renowned examples, but extremophiles are present in numerous and diverse genetic lineages of both bacteria and archaeans. Furthermore, it is erroneous to use the term extremophile to encompass all archaeans, as some are mesophilic. Neither are all extremophiles unicellular; protostomes found in similar environments include the Pompeii worm, the psychrophilic Grylloblattodea (insects), Antarctic krill (a crustacean) and the water bear.
Types of extremophiles
There are many different classes of extremophiles, each corresponding to the way its environmental niche differs from mesophilic conditions. These classifications are not exclusive. Many extremophiles fall under multiple categories. For example, organisms living inside hot rocks deep under Earth's surface are both thermophilic and barophilic.
Extremophiles and astrobiology
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.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Extremophile". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|