Scientists working with Strain 121, a heat-loving bacterium that lives deep in the ocean, recently revealed that it can not just live but thrive at 121 degrees Celsius. That’s 250 degrees Fahrenheit to you and me, or the temperature of a working autoclave that’s designed to sterilize medical equipment. These little guys don’t even break a sweat in boiling water.
At the same time, researchers in Antarctica have uncovered a cold-loving bacterium that lives at the bottom of an oxygen-starved lake in that coldest of continents, a place that never rises above a balmy 33 degrees Fahrenheit (see Extremophiles, Antarctica, and Extraterrestrial Life on the GNN site). Together, these hot and cold bugs are grouped under the label “extremophiles,” but nobody really asked them what they think of that name. It’s not clear they’re happy about where they live, for one thing. Anyway, I have it on good authority that they refer to us as “boring-ophiles.” The GNN article ends on this intriguing note.
Other research suggests that some methanogens could survive life on Mars. Scientists at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville have grown methanogens in Mars-like soil and under Mars-like conditions.
Actually, I’m pretty impressed that they can live in Fayetteville, Arkansas, but that’s another story. I am convinced that there’s already life on Mars, because we’ve sent it there. The Viking and Pathfinder landers could not possibly have been completely sterile when launched, and who knows what stowaways might have survived the journey? I like to picture our brawny earthling bacteria hopping off the lander and throttling their pale, scrawny Martian counterparts. It would be great to find a thriving colony of our own bacterial brethren when we finally arrive in force on Mars. Who knows… they might even be holding little banners emblazoned with the words “Welcome Boring-ophiles!”