Class Year



thermal vent environments, adaptation, evolution, thermophilic microorganisms, tungsten, hydrogenase


Though there are a variety of environments where life can survive, humans are limited to the troposphere—the lowest atmospheric layer—and have adapted to varied climates and elevations within this expanse. Oxygen, relative temperatures, and pressure are among the requirements for humans to survive. In stark contrast to these requirements for human life, consider the extremophiles, organisms that thrive in extreme conditions. They are typically unicellular prokaryotes—either bacteria or archaea. In relation to what we know of the vast majority of life on our planet, they are the rule breakers. Some of these organisms do not need carbon beyond carbon dioxide, and can survive without oxygen or even the relatively mild temperatures of Earth as we experience them. Still, from the perspective of the extremophilic organism, their environment is completely normal. This paper will explore their extreme character, as it may lead to clues about how we can conceptualize life beyond our present realm.


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