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    Default Extremophiles to The Extreme!

    For anyone who doesn't know, Extremophiles are organisms that are adapted to survive and even thrive in conditions that would be deadly to many organisms. There are different classifications of Extremophiles based on what specifically they're adapted to, and I think they're cool.

    I think most people have at least heard of the tardigrades, also known as water bears and moss piglets, microscopic animals that are known to exist in every single biome of the earth, can survive and recover from more than a thousand times the amount of radiation it takes to kill a human, can survive thirty years of total dehydration, and been take into space and exposed to outer-space conditions where they not only were not affected by it but somehow managed to pair off and mate in those conditions.

    Another interesting example is Deinococcus radiodurans which is a benign bacteria that seems to be almost completly impervious to... Everything. It actually holds the Guinness World Record for the most durable bacterium, being able to withstand and/or fully recover the damage from 5000 grays of ionizing radiation and still retains 37% viability at 15000 grays, as well as both extreme heat and cold, most environmental toxins, and dehydration... The notable thing is that as far as most scientists can tell, it wasn't trying to adapt to those things, it was just trying to adapt to dehydration.

    More specialized examples would be the radiotrophic fungus discovered in Chernobyl, which feed on radiation and use it to fuel their metabolic functions.

    So, my question is... Does anyone know of any other interesting extremophilic organisms?
    Last edited by Rater202; 2021-01-23 at 11:49 PM.
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    Default Re: Extremophiles to The Extreme!

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    Default Re: Extremophiles to The Extreme!

    Microbes living in asphalt lakes. A whole variety of different organisms living in extremely hot and toxic conditions with pretty funky metabolism.
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    Default Re: Extremophiles to The Extreme!

    I'm always intrigued by the ecosystems around thermal vents, because the ecosystem doesn't start with photosynthesis but with bacteria that fix carbon via sulfur, and all of the other life depends on that first step to exist.

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    Default Re: Extremophiles to The Extreme!

    I seem to recall hearing about some algae or fungi living in Antarctica that are hundreds of thousands of years old.
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    eek Re: Extremophiles to The Extreme!

    Do you think taking a bunch of extremophiles and planting them on venus/Titan/etc is a good first step for terraforming?

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    Default Re: Extremophiles to The Extreme!

    There certainly isn't anything that can survive on Venus. Likely also not on Titan.
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    Default Re: Extremophiles to The Extreme!

    I mean, we woulnd't know till we tried, but if we're gonna terraform something it'd be best to do Mars becuase it's relatively similar to Earth, more or less, just with less liquid water and oxygen and a lot colder.

    There are certain lichens that might be able to handle mars, but honestly tossing those about in various parts of the martian surface would be more of an investment than a...

    Like, I imagine that colonies would be very tight-run ship and stuff with contained buildings and eventually domes. spreading lichens and stuff to photosynthesize is much more a case of "leave this alone to see if it does anything and then maybe in a couple hundred years it will have spread enough that there will be breathable levels of oxygen in the atmosphere."

    I imagine that colonies on venus are a pipedream.
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    Eldritch Horror in the Playground Moderator
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    Default Re: Extremophiles to The Extreme!

    On the surface, at least. With some sort of highly sulfur resistant coating you might be able to build a floating balloon colony of some kind, up at the atmospheric band that has earth-normal pressures.

    But that is way more work than Mars.
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    Default Re: Extremophiles to The Extreme!

    Quote Originally Posted by Rater202 View Post
    I mean, we woulnd't know till we tried, but if we're gonna terraform something it'd be best to do Mars becuase it's relatively similar to Earth, more or less, just with less liquid water and oxygen and a lot colder.

    There are certain lichens that might be able to handle mars, but honestly tossing those about in various parts of the martian surface would be more of an investment than a...

    Like, I imagine that colonies would be very tight-run ship and stuff with contained buildings and eventually domes. spreading lichens and stuff to photosynthesize is much more a case of
    I imagine that colonies on venus are a pipedream.
    I think you should take the couple hundred and add thousands to it. "leave this alone to see if it does anything and then maybe in a couple hundred thousand years it will have spread enough that there will be breathable levels of oxygen in the atmosphere."

    The problem with space colonies in my mind is the processes to terraform a planet are absurdly slower then the extinction rate is. IE we will almost certainly be dead by the time anything is even remotely habitable.
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    Default Re: Extremophiles to The Extreme!

    Quote Originally Posted by Tvtyrant View Post
    I think you should take the couple hundred and add thousands to it. "leave this alone to see if it does anything and then maybe in a couple hundred thousand years it will have spread enough that there will be breathable levels of oxygen in the atmosphere."

    The problem with space colonies in my mind is the processes to terraform a planet are absurdly slower then the extinction rate is. IE we will almost certainly be dead by the time anything is even remotely habitable.
    I imagine that there would be periodic missions to seed and reseed various parts of the martian surface with photosynthetic life able to survive on it that are cultivated by various colonies.

    Ideally, by the time we can colonize mars we'll be able to engineer a plant or algae that grows like kudzu while needing little water and efficiently photosynthesizes.

    But mars colonization is perhaps a topic for another thread.
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    Default Re: Extremophiles to The Extreme!

    Quote Originally Posted by Rater202 View Post
    I mean, we woulnd't know till we tried, but if we're gonna terraform something it'd be best to do Mars becuase it's relatively similar to Earth, more or less, just with less liquid water and oxygen and a lot colder.
    .
    Also toxic soil, no nutrients, no atmospheric pressure and deadly radiation. Oh and probably insufficient sunlight fof plants across much of the planet.

    I'm not saying that Mars is unsurviveable. But I'm saying that we probably need to start several levels below Lichen. Those still need nutrients, light and air. For the foreseeable future, we're looking at bacteria, possibly GM bacteria. Possibly GM bacteria with additional heat sources shipped along with them. Bacteria that will stay underground near the ice layers, where they are shielded from radiation.
    Last edited by Eldan; 2021-02-03 at 05:05 AM.
    "Après la vie - le mort, après le mort, la vie de noveau.
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    Default Re: Extremophiles to The Extreme!

    A useful way to think about Mars is as the crappier version of Antarctica. Except with no ocean, so all life that depends on oceanic primary production is out the window - alas, no Mars fringed with penguins for us.

    Which leaves... some very low key lichen and various weird types of bacteria. Now I haven't run the numbers by any means, but I'm guessing that a Mars covered in very slowly growing lichen is still going to have basically no oxygen in the atmosphere for a very, very long time. For an absolute floor, Wikipedia suggests it would take 2000 years for earth's existing levels of plant life to re-oxygenate the atmosphere, and Antarctic lichen is gonna be rounding error in the sum total of earth's plant life.
    Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
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    Default Re: Extremophiles to The Extreme!

    I saw someone run the numbers and hte problem is that Antarctica still gets more sunlight than Mars to power that lichen. And is warmer. And has much higher gas pressure. And the soil isn't toxic.

    I don't think unmodified antarctic lichen could grow on Mars.
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    Default Re: Extremophiles to The Extreme!

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    I saw someone run the numbers and hte problem is that Antarctica still gets more sunlight than Mars to power that lichen. And is warmer. And has much higher gas pressure. And the soil isn't toxic.

    I don't think unmodified antarctic lichen could grow on Mars.
    Neither do I to be clear. I was giving the terraform Mars case the best case I could remotely justify, which still shows it being basically impossible with ac anything like current technology on a remotely feasible timescale.

    I find the Antarctica comparison useful for these arguments because Antarctica is a blasted hellscape that humans are nowhere near able to inhabit in a self-sustaining way. And that's a place that sucks much, much less than Mars, and is tremendously easier to get to.
    Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
    When they shot him down on the highway,
    Down like a dog on the highway,
    And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.


    Alfred Noyes, The Highwayman, 1906.

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