Imagine this, if you will. You wake up tomorrow morning and instead of being snuggled in your bed and hearing birds chirping outside your window, you’re laying in water anywhere from 113 to 252 °F. Welcome to the life of a thermophile. Just one of eighteen different classes of extremophiles, thermophiles are small organisms that are able to withstand heat far past what humans had originally thought could support life.
Extremophiles in the broadest sense are organisms that live in extreme environments. They can range anywhere from extreme heat, to overly acidic places, to extreme cold. What’s fascinating is that we didn’t even know these little guys existed until 1965 when the first class of extremophiles was discovered. Since then we’ve found them in the (previously thought) most inhospitable places on Earth. These are places that humans had been walking by and living near for pretty much our whole existence and had always thought to be too hot or cold, too acidic or alkaline. But we were just basing that on our previously acquired taste for less–shall we say–deadly real estate.
The word extremophile is a mixture of Latin and Greek words meaning extreme and love. This basically means that to be considered an extremophile, an organism must require the extreme environments in which it lives. It just goes to show that even though we may think we are vastly superior in comparison to Earth’s other inhabitants, we are just another species with it’s own genetic traits suited for our own environment. Just because we as humans don’t live there, doesn’t mean some other species hasn’t staked it’s claim there already.