Microorganisms are organisms that are modified to survive perfectly even in extreme conditions, and they are called extremophiles. The word, extremophile, is used to describe a microorganism that can survive extreme conditions of temperature, pH level and foreign solute concentrations that are beyond the range that occur on earth. These extremophiles are categorized based on the conditions that they can endure. They include thermophiles, hyperthermophiles, acidophiles, alkaliphiles, halophiles, endoliths and barophiles. However, some microorganisms belong to more than one of these categories. For instance, some endoliths are also thermophiles.
Extremophiles also consist of life forms that live deep inside of the oceans and can survive without sunlight. They get warmth and energy from the geothermally heated water that comes from hydrothermal vents near the ridges in the middle of the ocean that are placed where the earth’s tectonic plates are moving apart. Further, according to Weintraub (2014), other extremophiles grow in super acidic settings which are known as the acidophilus. Others develop in temperatures above the boiling point of water and can be found in hot springs. The domain Archaea contain notable examples of extremophiles, however, extremophiles are also present in several as well as diverse genetic lineages of bacteria as well as archaeans and few eukaryotes. Notably, there are more other classes of extremophiles that range around the globe with each corresponding to the manner in which its environment niche differs from mesophilic conditions.
Kirkland (2010), underlines that all organisms must have a source of energy to maintain life. For the bacteria as well as archaea living around hydrothermal vents, the energy source originates from the chemical bonds in the compounds that are dissolved in water. Notably, the reactions inside the organisms develop the relevant energy. For instance, hydrogen sulfide reacts with oxygen to form sulfates and in the process, releases energy that the organisms utilize to drive other reactions to produce sugar. Extremophiles are of biotechnological interest because of the generate extremozymes which are described as enzymes that are functional under extreme conditions. Extremozymes are important in industrial production processes as well as research applications due to their property of remaining active under harsh conditions. These conditions revolve around high temperatures, pressure as well as pH. A majority of the life forms found in the extreme environmental conditions are microbes. The microbes can be characterized through the utilization of r-RNA comparative sequencing technology. As noted earlier, these microbes have the ability to produce a wide array of enzymes that can be employed in various industrial applications such as lipase, DNA polymerase as well as the protease.
Despite the interest in extremophiles, current studies are yet to accomplish the task of identifying the extremophiles from their natural habitats. According to Tiquia-Arashiro and Rodrigues (2016), less than 1% of the organisms have been identified, and even fewer have been sequenced for their beneficial features. Additionally, the study of extremophiles may offer astronomers as well as space explorers an insight regarding possible life on the other planets. Conditions on Mars are contended to be cold, dry and forbidding. However, the seemingly inhospitable environment may still support life.
Conclusively, extremophiles can be described as one of the most mysterious categories of life on the planet. Nature provides numerous opportunities to life forms that can consume and produce relevant energy for their survival. However, normal survival may not be achieved in environments that undergo extreme conditions characterized by high or low temperatures, pH, salinity, pressure, radiation, lack of nutrition, chemical extremes, osmotic barriers, geological barriers as well as poly extremity.
Kirkland, K. (2010). Earth sciences: notable research and discoveries. Infobase Publishing.
Tiquia-Arashiro, S., & Rodrigues, D. F. (2016). Extremophiles: Applications in Nanotechnology.
Weintraub, D. A. (2014). Religions and extraterrestrial life: how will we deal with it? Springer.