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Are thermophilic microorganisms active in cold?

Cockell, Charles S.; Cousins, Claire; Wilkinson, Paul T.; Olsson-Francis, Karen and Rozitis, Ben (2015). Are thermophilic microorganisms active in cold? International Journal of Astrobiology, 14(3) pp. 457–463.

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The mean air temperature of the Icelandic interior is below 10 °C. However, we have previously observed 16S rDNA sequences associated with thermophilic lineages in Icelandic basalts. Measurements of the temperatures of igneous rocks in Iceland showed that solar insolation of these low albedo substrates achieved a peak surface temperature of 44.5 °C. We isolated seven thermophilic Geobacillus species from basalt with optimal growth temperatures of ~65 °C. The minimum growth temperature of these organisms was ~36 °C, suggesting that they could be active in the rock environment. Basalt dissolution rates at 40 °C were increased in the presence of one of the isolates compared to abiotic controls, showing its potential to be involved in active biogeochemistry at environmental temperatures. These data raise the possibility of transient active thermophilic growth in macroclimatically cold rocky environments, implying that the biogeographical distribution of active thermophiles might be greater than previously understood. These data show that temperatures measured or predicted over large scales on a planet are not in themselves adequate to assess niches available to extremophiles at micron scales.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2014 Cambridge University Press
ISSN: 1475-3006
Keywords: thermophiles; extremophiles; volcanoes; Mars; geomicrobiology
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Physical Sciences
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences
Item ID: 44950
Depositing User: Karen Olsson-Francis
Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2015 15:13
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2018 10:36
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