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March 21, 2011

Disovery of new bacteria broadens our expectations for life elsewhere

Following our discussion in class today about the rise of unicellular organisms...

Scientists recently found a rare breed of bacteria in Mono Lake, California, an isolated body of water similar to the Great Salt Lake of Utah. Mono Lake is known not only for its high sodium content (2.5 times levels found in the ocean), but also for its extremely alkaline acidity level. These conditions make it very difficult for even unicellular organisms to survive, so they have been forced to evolve extensively to survive over the long term.

This recently found strain of bacteria is capable of incorporating arsenic in place of phosphorous into its DNA/RNA, a previously unseen evolutionary mechanism in modern life. This unique adaptation broadens our idea of what "habitable conditions" are for the rise of early life on a planet. This discovery means unicellular life is even more flexible than we thought to environmental changes, and may be capable of still existing in worlds we think to have gone extinct long ago.


Posted by rborden at March 21, 2011 02:17 PM


In Biology 171 I learned about these types of organisms I believe they call them extremophiles or organisms that thrive in extreme conditions. I think that the study of extremophiles is important because it can teach us more about evolution and how organisms that can live in extreme circumstances are still in existence. It also can tell us more about possible life because other planets compared to Earth's perfect conditions are extreme!

Posted by: melmccor at March 21, 2011 07:14 PM

I just read the section in the book about extremophiles. Finding organisms that thrive in extreme conditions does offer a lot of hope for finding life in other places in the solar system that differ from Earth. This finding definitely exciting because if organisms are found in more extreme conditions here on Earth it shows that life can come about in extreme conditions across our solar systems and others.

Posted by: emschnei at March 22, 2011 12:38 AM

I think this is very interesting, especially after we learned about the four different combinations of how living organisms grow. Life can thrive in many unexpected environments. I think it is fascinating how some organisms, Autotrophs, can create their own food by converting atmospheric CO2. This gives so many possibilities of life, because there might be other life forms in the universe who have adapted to make their own food out of other atmospheric gases. Not all worlds have CO2 in their atmospheres, but there might be another gas in which life can thrive.

Posted by: skritt at March 27, 2011 05:19 PM

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