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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A microbe that thrives in boiling water and "breathes" iron has stretched the limits of where scientists believed life could exist, according to a report published on Thursday.
The bacteria-like organism lives in a hellish undersea environment where water boils out from underwater vents called black smokers. There is no light, the pressure of the water would instantly crush anything living on land and the water is loaded with toxic chemicals.
The discovery suggests that life could exist on planets very different from Earth. It also suggests that life did not always evolve in the ways biology teaches -- in warm, soupy waters bathed in sunlight on the planet's surface.
Kazem Kashefi and Derek Lovley of the University of Massachusetts tested a sample of water collected about 200 miles off Puget Sound and nearly a mile and a half below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.
The water was collected by a University of Washington team looking for archaea, bacteria-like organisms that live in extreme environments.
The area they explored can be reached only by remotely operated submarines. Known as the Juan de Fuca Ridge, it is marked by black smokers that rise the equivalent of four stories.
Life has been found around the black smokers, teetering in the balance between frigid and boiling waters and often using the sulfur in the water as fuel.
For example, another microbe called Pyrolobus fumarii lives in temperatures of up to 235 Fahrenheit (113 Celsius).
But the newly discovered microbe survived even higher temperatures and did not use either oxygen or sulfur in respiration. Instead it uses iron to burn its food for energy -- the role played by oxygen on most other species on Earth.
"It's a novel form of respiration," Lovley said in a statement.
Kashefi and Lovley tested their sample by steaming it in an autoclave -- used to disinfect medical equipment.
To their surprise, they were able to grow this organism even after bringing the water to temperatures far above the boiling point -- up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, or 121 degrees Celsius. Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, or 100 degrees Celsius.
They nicknamed it Strain 121.
"Growth at 121 degrees C is remarkable because sterilization at 121 degrees C, typically in pressurized autoclaves to maintain water in a liquid state, is a standard procedure shown to kill all previously described microorganisms and heat-resistant spores," they wrote in a report published in the journal Science.
"Autoclaving did not kill strain 121, and it doubled in cell numbers after 24 hours at 121 decrees C."
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Not that we are likely to see this in mushroom cultivation, but I think it is a good reference for anybody that says, "15 minutes at 121C is enough to kill anything!"...
-------------------- Just another spore in the wind.
Hehe, I love seeing articles like this where everything a scientist 'knew' is proved wrong. Its just goes to show how we dont know shit. From something like this our whole theroy of evolution can be proven wrong, same w/ alien life, and now something survived the death temp