Extremophiles

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extremophiles panspermia microbes bacteria archaeans origin of lifeAn extremophile (from Latin extremus meaning "extreme" and Greek philiā (φιλία) meaning "love") is an organism that thrives in and even may require physically or geochemically extreme conditions that are detrimental to the majority of life on Earth.

Most known extremophiles are microbes. 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; protostome animals found in similar environments include the Pompeii worm, the psychrophilic Grylloblattodea (insects), Antarctic krill (a crustacean), and the "water bear".

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 Panspermia

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panspermia astrobiologists extremophiles origin of life planetsSome astrobiologists are concerned with forming theories, such as panspermia, about the distribution, nature, and origin of life in the Universe. Microbial ecologists, astronomers, planetary scientists, geochemists, philosophers, and explorers cooperate constructively to 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.

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