Friday, April 12, 2013

One of my favorite topics of interest is that of microbial life living in extreme environments. These creatures used to be distant topics in Biology but now receive a lot of attention due to many beliefs that analogous organisms could live on other bodies in our solar system: Mars, Europa, Titan, (the Titan link is a BBC video), Enceladus, Ceres. Looking at the picture below you can see where we find these organisms on Earth. The icy moons that NASA and others are so interested in could potentially allow life to develop. Designing, launching and successfully getting an ice penetrating probe to Europa for example is decades away, if not longer. Once we get to Europa, getting through kilometers of ice will be incredibly difficult. Europa is so cold and its ocean so deep beneath the ice, I would be very surprised (but still excited!) if any cellular life has evolved there. So called "Chaos" regions have scientist most excited as these regions might contain subsurface lakes. Lake Vostoc is the closest thing we have and I do not think it makes a good comparison as the life in it possibly (if any) evolved under different conditions and then adapted to a changing environment. Regardless, extremophiles are super cool organisms that deserve to be known about and discussed in the mainstream.

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