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The Pompeii worm, the most heat-tolerant animal on Earth, lives in the deep ocean at hydrothermal vents. The worm's back is covered in bacteria adapted for living in extreme environments.
Courtesy of the University of Delaware

Microbe Survives in Oceanís Deepest Realm, Thanks to Genetic Adaptations
News story originally written on February 5, 2009

Scientists are taking a close look at a tiny microbe. They want to learn more about how this microbe is adapted to live in an extreme environment.

The microbe is a species of bacteria. It lives near deep sea vents. Scientists have found it living on the backs of worms like the one in this picture. They have also found it growing on the vents where hot liquids spew from underground.

Scientists are studying the microbeís genes Ė the code that makes it what it is. One special gene that they found is also found in other microbes that live in very hot places. But this microbe lives in very unique places.

Deep sea vents are both very hot and very cold places. The seawater is very cold. But there is also very hot liquid spewing from underground. Microbes that live there must adapt to both the hot and the cold. The special gene might allow this microbe to survive the quick changes in temperature.

Conditions near hydrothermal vents today are probably a lot like conditions that existed all over early Earth. Understanding microbes living near vents today might give scientists clues to how microbes evolved a few billion years ago.

Last modified April 13, 2009 by Lisa Gardiner.

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