Extreme Life

  • Stuck in the Muck
    Deep beneath the ocean floor, microorganisms by the billions survive - but just barely. Measurements of the rate at which they carry out life's chemical reactions show that perhaps as few as one in a million is active.
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  • Hot Springs High in the Andes
    An international team of scientists has spent the past two weeks in the Andes mountains, preparing to explore the highest lake in the world: 6,000 meters (19,700 feet) above sea level. In this expedition, Henry Bortman talks with two graduate students who are participating
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  • Licancabur Expedition Journal: Part Two
    A team of scientists has traveled to the Andes mountains to explore the highest lake in the world. In this second of four articles, Astrobiology Magazine editor Henry Bortman talks with Nathalie Cabrol, the expedition leader, about what they've discovered so far.
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  • Cutting through the Protein Knots
    As webmaster of 200,000 computers across the globe, the Stanford computational biology team (folding@home) has unraveled the first 3-dimensional knot of a model protein, using the now familiar screensaver supercomputer popularized by SETI@home.
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  • What’s Living in the World’s Highest Lake?
    An international team of scientists this week began a three-week trek to the highest lake in the world. This is the first in a series of four articles about their expedition to Licancabur, Chile. Each Monday for the next three weeks, we will bring
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  • SpinCam: Pancake Recipe for Life
    Centrifuge-cameras begin exploration of life and genetic changes at the extremes of high gravity-- in the only animal with a completely sequenced gene library.
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  • Extreme Animals
    Because of their ability to withstand hostile conditions, tardigrades and other cryptobiotic organisms are of interest to astrobiologists. Some tardigrades can survive in temperatures as low as minus 200 degrees Celsius (minus 328 F).
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  • Tracking the Path of Green Slime
    Cyanobacteria gave us oxygen for the atmosphere and a protective ozone layer, and they led to the development of all the green plants in the world today. They can be found everywhere from the surface of the oceans to underneath
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  • Bacteria: Survival in Siberia
    While Mars experts have gathered evidence of ice on Mars for some time, results in May from the Odyssey spacecraft showed large amounts of subsurface ice. The concept of suspended animation supports the plots of dozens of science fiction books and movies.
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  • Prospecting for Viruses
    Under scalding, acidic conditions, how do life processes function? Because of their simplicity relative to cellular life forms, the 3500 described viruses may offer scientists the best opportunity to glean information about survival in extreme environments.
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  • Antarctic Microbes Colonize under Mars-like Conditions
    More than 20 years ago, scientists first discovered that algae, fungi and bacteria could grow inside porous sandstone and surface pavement in the Antarctic Dry Valleys.
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  • High-pressure Living
    Most researchers have concluded that only some exotic forms of life might survive at 30 miles below ground or 100 miles beneath the ocean. But a recent study published in Science magazine highlights what might be a large and subterranean biomass, even for common surface
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  • Salt of the Early Earth
    Scientists have long assumed that life originated in the sea. If life did spring from salt water, that could explain why all organisms use salt. But Paul Knauth, an astrobiologist with Arizona State University, says while we always assume that life came from the ocean,
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  • The Driest Place on Earth
    How much water does life need to survive? Chile's Atacama desert hold some interesting clues - clues that may help researchers in the hunt for life on Mars.
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  • The First Sulfur Eaters
    Sulfate-reducing bacteria have been known to exist at least 2.72 billion years ago, but new findings from Western Australian rocks push the date of their existence back an additional 750 million years. This would mean that sulfate-reducing bacteria are one of the oldest known life
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