What are Extremophiles?
Extremophiles are organisms that thrive in extreme environments. Usually, these environments are inhospitable to all other forms of life. Extreme environments are usually characterized by harsh environmental conditions, which are far beyond the optimal range for most other living organisms.
Most extremophiles are prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, with the largest number of diversity among the latter. Furthermore, these organisms have specialized adaptations which help them survive in their environment. Moreover, these extremophiles fall under various classifications, some of which are not exclusive. These groups of extremophiles are called polyextremophiles. Other types of extremophiles include:
- Acidophiles – These extremophiles grow optimally at pH levels of 3.0 or below.
- Alkaliphiles – Unlike acidophiles, alkaliphiles grow optimally at pH levels of 9.0 or above.
- Halophiles – Halophiles are extremophiles that thrive in very salty environments. (Dissolved salt concentration is generally 50 g/L or above.)
- Hypolith – Hypoliths are organisms that thrive underneath rocks in cold deserts.
- Cryophile – These are organisms that live in frigid environments.
- Radioresistants – These are organisms that can survive high levels of ionizing radiation such as ultraviolet radiation. These organisms can also survive nuclear radiation.
- Thermophiles – These organisms thrive in temperatures above 45 °C
Scientists speculate that extremophiles may have thrived in the conditions present on the early earth. Oxygen was almost non-existent, and the temperatures were hellishly hot. However, these conditions were ideal for these early extremophiles to thrive and multiply. Some scientists also hypothesize that life may have begun near the hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor. Though the conditions are inhospitable to higher forms of life, thermophiles may have thrived in those environments. Life is believed to have evolved from conditions such as these, though there is no conclusive evidence to prove the same.
The resilience of these organisms is so remarkable that scientists from NASA have speculated that extraterrestrial organisms on distant planets may resemble or possess characteristics of extremophiles found on earth. Explore other fascinating concepts such as animal cell, plant cells and plasma membrane function only at BYJU’S