: an organism that lives under extreme environmental conditions (as in a hot spring or ice cap)
"Beetles with antifreeze blood, ants that sprint on scorching sand and spiders that live high up Mount Everest. These incredible creatures are the extremophiles: animals that survive some of the most inhospitable conditions on Earth, and sometimes even further." — Christopher Brooks, BBC.co.uk, 26 Mar. 2016
"[Andrew] Czaja said research into extremophiles in general gives scientists confidence that life can exist anywhere where the appropriate building blocks, including a liquid medium (such as water) and a source of energy, exist." — Stephanie Margaret Bucklin, Astronomy Magazine, 8 Dec. 2016
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 organisms—mostly microorganisms—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 extremophiles: 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.
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Test Your Vocabulary
Fill in the blanks to complete an adjective that describes an organism that is tolerant of wide variation in one or more environmental factors: e _ _ y _ opi _.VIEW THE ANSWER
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