Chilean scientists have discovered microbes with surprising characterisitcs in Antarctica, as reported by Nature. The researchers discovered more than 200 new species used to living in extreme conditions, including species that survive in very cold temperatures, in saline solutions and in extremely acidic or basic environments. However, surprisingly, scientists also discovered microbes that prefer temperatures above 50° C and one that can survive temperatures as high as 95° C. This means that these microbes evolved when the environment of Antarctica was very different. Another surprising discovery was a type of bacteria that can withstand γ-rays exposures 5000 times greater than any other known organism on Earth. Because this level of exposure does not occur naturally, the origin of this species is unknown, and some scientists speculate that it could be extra-terrestrial in nature.
The team of scientists, from the Biosciences Foundation in Santiago, were conducting this research in hopes to find species useful for biotechnologies, of which they found many possibilities.
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