Since their discovery in the late 1970s, microorganisms known as archaea have fascinated scientists with their ability to thrive where no other life can – in conditions that are extremely hot, acidic or salty.
These hot springs in Nevada, known as the Three Buddhas, harbor microorganisms known as archaea that thrive where no other life can. UGA researcher Chuanlun Zhang and his colleagues have proposed a new hypothesis on the origin of relatives of these hot springs microorganisms that live in low-temperature environments. Credit: University of Georgia
In the 1990s, however, scientists discovered that archaea occur widely in more mundane, low-temperature environments such as oceans and lakes. Now, researchers from the University of Georgia and Harvard University find evidence that these low-temperature archaea might have evolved from a moderate-temperature environment rather than from their high-temperature counterparts – as most scientists had believed. The results appear in the June 2006 issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
"Archaea represent one of the three domains of life on Earth," said Chuanlun Zhang, lead author of the study and associate professor of marine sciences at UGA. "Understanding their evolution may shed light on how all life forms evolve and interact with the environment through geological history."
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