The Extremists










Archaea can be found in many"extreme environments": highly sulfurous lakes (right); ice (top left); Utah‘s Great Salt Lake (above middle); and hot geysers like the Lonestar (above middle); and in undersea hydrothermal vents (above right).

In addition to superheated waters, archaea have been found in acid-laden streams around old mines, in frigid Antarctic ice and in the super-salty waters of the Dead Sea. A number of other extreme-living bacterial species also enjoy these conditions, too, such as the community of cyanobacteria and bacteria shown above.


  • Thermophiles like unusually hot temperatures. A few species have been found to survive even above 110 degrees Celsius (water boils at 100 degrees Celsius).

  • Psychrophiles like extremely cold temperatures (even down to -10 degrees Celsius).

  • Halophiles thrive in unusually salty habitats. Some can thrive in water that’s 9% salt; sea water contains only 0.9% salt.
  • Acidophiles prefer acidic conditions; Alkaliphiles prefer very alkaline environs.

Archaea that populate extreme environments (along with some of their bacterial cousins) have developed some clever tricks and tools to do so. For example, they produce special enzymes that help keep all the parts of their cells intact even in conditions that would have our human skin falling apart.


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