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Extreme bacteria named for Otago man

One of the toughest microorganisms on the planet has just been named after University of Otago microbiologist Prof Greg Cook.

"It's a great honour and it means a lot to me," he said yesterday.

The bacterial species concerned - Amphibacillus cookii sp. nov.- flourishes in the hot and highly salty environment of the Great Salt Lake in Utah, in the United States.

Such bacteria flourish at high temperatures, such as about 40degC, but can also survive temperatures of up to 70degC in its seemingly hostile surroundings, by forming spores which are virtually indestructible.

"They love it in these conditions.

"That's what's remarkable about this organism," he said.

These highly resilient bacteria were great survivors, having already existed for two to three billion years, and were effectively immortal.

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