The 1990s television show, The X-Files, featured FBI agents investigating the possibility that extraterrestrial life was among us here on Earth. Well, in this week’s activity we won’t be looking for extraterrestrial life but we will be looking in hostile places for strange life forms here on Earth!
Microbes, which include bacteria, have certain requirements that must be met to survive; they need a source of energy and a supply of nutrients. Microbes are everywhere! Some live on our skin, inside us, in the soil, the air, just about anywhere. In the 1960s, microbes were discovered living in some of the hot springs within Yellowstone National Park. Since then, scientists have discovered microbes living in other environments that are extremely salty, high in acids, high in pressure, and other extremes. In the 1970s, these organisms were given the name “extremophiles” because they live under extreme conditions. Extreme conditions are considered to be those that are not normal, for example, most organisms live within a temperature range of 5oC to 40oC. Extremophiles have been discovered living in the deep oceans as well as in shallow waters. Recently, the Deep Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico focused attention on extremophiles that like to eat oil. They have been important in helping to clean up the oil spill.
Scientists currently sailing on the JOIDES Resolution are investigating microbes that live deep within the seafloor sediments, where it is cold, there is little energy, and the water pressure is very high, in other words, extreme environments.
For this week’s activity, you will create your own extremophile! There are many types of extremophiles; some like high temperatures, some like high acid environments, others like very salty conditions, etc. Research types of extremophiles; then create your very own (you don’t have to be limited by reality) and describe, in a few sentences, what makes it an extremophile. Draw or build your microbe, give it a name, describe its extreme environment. Be creative! For example, you could say, “My microbe lives only in the dark, below 0o C , and survives on raspberry jello alone.”
- Arts and crafts supplies
Take a photo of your creation and email it, along with your brief description to JR !