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Little known life forms

extremophiles

Last week “The Economist” in its Intelligent life feature carried an interesting article titled “Some like it very hot”. It talks about extremophiles. Wikipedia defines them as “organism that thrives in physically or geochemically extreme conditions that are detrimental to most life on Earth”. This biological category was discovered only 40 years back.

We seem to think, as the Human race we know everything to know about Planet Earth’s life forms and what’s left is to explore life on other planets like Mars. But the truth is that our last 200 years of scientific progress covers the surface land we will in, we know little about marine creatures living in depth of oceans (like in Marina trench – the deepest part of oceans and is about 10KMs in depth) or in extreme conditions where we thought life, as we know, was impossible.

For example, organisms live in a volcano or hot vents on the seabed where temperatures can be just above 120 degree Celsius and these heat lovers are called thermophiles. In Mexican caves where the air is poisonous with hydrogen sulphides, you have snottites. Some believe that life actually started from these extreme conditions like on hydrothermal vents. Studying and understanding more about extremophiles can have huge benefits on drug discovery and treatments.