Extremophiles 101 | National Geographic

- [Narrator] Intense heat,

freezing cold,

high acidity,

and radioactivity.

These harsh environments don't seem hospitable for life

but some organisms not only survive but thrive

under such extreme conditions.

The name extremophile means extreme lover.

These organisms live in exceptionally harsh environments.

Such as hot hyperthermal vents or buried in rocks

far beneath the Earth's surface.

Extremophiles occur in all three domains of life.

Bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes.

They range from the extreme heat-loving thermomophiles

which feed off of inorganic chemicals

and have special enzymes to survive high temperatures

to extreme cold-loving psychrophiles which have evolved

antifreeze proteins that help ensure their survival

in some of the coldest waters on the planet.

But the most extreme living things on Earth are tardigrades.

Also known as water bears, these water-dwelling

micro animals are polyextremophiles.

This means they are capable of surviving

multiple harsh conditions.

They are nearly indestructible and have even survived

the extreme conditions of outer space.

Tardigrades have a unique adaptation that allows them

to curl up into a dry, seemingly lifeless ball.

And slow down their metabolic rate.

In this state, they can survive cold, dry environments

like space for decades.

Studying the adaptations of extremophiles may hold the key

to solving many of Earth's problems.

This includes the development

of genetically based medications,

producing new types of biofuels,

and protecting people against radiation exposure.

Extremophiles have opened our minds to the many

possibilities of life and the environments

that can support it.

Understanding the limits of life in these extreme

conditions on Earth may provide scientists with clues

of how life could possibly exist elsewhere in the universe.