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Arctic Bacteria Thrives at Mars Temps

One of the things that makes it extremely hard for life to flourish in foreboding places like Mars and the moons of Saturn is the punishing cold. Without the benefit of a blanket-like atmosphere, these celestial bodies have average temperatures well below freezing. Now, researchers from McGill University in Montreal have discovered a bacterium living in the frozen permafrost of the high Arctic that is yielding clues about how extraterrestrial organisms might endure such conditions.

The permafrost bacterium, Planococcus halocryophilus strain Or1, grows and divides at -15°C and can even remain metabolically active at -25°C. McGill environmental microbiologist Lyle Whyte and colleagues isolated the bacteria from Ellesmere Island in the Canadian high Arctic by screening about 200 microbes from the same ecosystem looking for those best adapted to the harsh conditions. They discovered that Planococcus halocryophilus could thrive at -15°C, the lowest temperature yet recorded for bacterial growth. They published their results in the International Society for Microbial Ecology Journal (The ISME Journal) in February.
 
 

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