extremophile

noun
ex·​trem·​o·​phile | \ik-ˈstrē-mə-ˌfī(-ə)l \

Definition of extremophile 

: an organism that lives under extreme environmental conditions (as in a hot spring or ice cap)

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Did You Know?

No, an extremophile is not an enthusiast of extreme sports (though -phile does mean "one who loves or has an affinity for"). Rather, extremophiles are microbes that thrive in environments once considered uninhabitable, from places with high levels of toxicity and radiation to boiling-hot deep-sea volcanoes to Antarctic ice sheets. Scientists have even created a new biological domain to classify some of these microbes: Archaea (from Greek archaios, meaning "ancient"). These extremophiles may have a lot in common with the first organisms to appear on earth billions of years ago. If so, they can give us insight into how life on our planet may have arisen. They are also being studied to learn about possible life forms on other planets, where conditions are extreme compared to conditions on Earth.

Examples of extremophile in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

On Earth, some methanogens are extremophiles—known to live deep in the ocean at hydrothermal vents, surviving on the intense heat and chemicals released. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "One of Earth’s Deep Sea Microbes Could Survive on Saturn’s Moon," 1 Mar. 2018 And studies of extremophiles, microbes that thrive in inhospitable environments on Earth, suggest life can spring up in unlikely places. Daniel Clery, Science | AAAS, "Earth-sized alien worlds are out there. Now, astronomers are figuring out how to detect life on them," 1 Nov. 2017 Among the hundreds the team has logged are many extremophiles, which fill marginal niches on Earth but may be a dominant life form on an exoplanet. Daniel Clery, Science | AAAS, "Earth-sized alien worlds are out there. Now, astronomers are figuring out how to detect life on them," 1 Nov. 2017 On Earth, researchers have found all types of extremophile organisms with the ability to survive under intense heat and pressure, in the presence of acid, without water and even inside rocks. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Mars Surface May Be Too Toxic for Microbial Life," 6 July 2017 The base for all cells on Earth, even for the extremophiles living in nitrogen-heavy environments, is water. Shannon Stirone, Popular Mechanics, "Chemical on Saturn's Moon Titan Could Form Cell Membranes," 28 July 2017 His team, researchers from the University of Bologna and the International Research School of Planetary Science, traveled to Danakil to study extremophiles, resilient forms of microbes that can live in hostile environments. Chris Giles, CNN, "Mars on Earth: Scientists look to the Danakil Depression for clues to alien life," 7 July 2017 On Earth, researchers have found all types of extremophile organisms with the ability to survive under intense heat and pressure, in the presence of acid, without water and even inside rocks. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Mars Surface May Be Too Toxic For Microbial Life," 7 July 2017 Hof isn’t the only living extremophile who harnesses this sort of focus. James Hamblin, The Atlantic, "The Ice Guru in Brooklyn," 9 June 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'extremophile.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of extremophile

1989, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of extremophile was in 1989

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