Over on Student Voices, my latest blog post has been published, entitled Some Like It Very, Very Hot. It’s all about the crazy world of hyperthermophiles – organisms that can comfortably live in temperatures exceeding 60ºC – and some of the current record-breakers in the field: Pyrococcus furiosus, Geogemma barossii and Methanopyrus kandleri. There are few things more fascinating than these microbes, people, and their extreme biology continues to astound the scientific community.
Here’s a little taste:
To put these hyperthermophiles’ biochemical achievements in perspective, proteins in our body have an optimal temperature of around 37ºC — which is, not coincidentally, our normal core temperature but if exposed to the optimal temperatures of hyperthermophilic proteins, our precious proteins would instantly denature, jumbling into a quivering, biologically-useless tangle of amino acids. We didn’t evolve to survive anything like that amount of heat.
So, you’re probably all wondering:
What are the known limits to hyperthermophilia? What are the most extreme members of this already-crazy group of creatures? How hot do we know they can go?