This pink lake’s brine and salt is colored by Dunaliella salina.

This pink lake’s brine and salt is colored by Dunaliella salina.

Thermus aquaticus bacteria thrive in hot temperatures.

Thermus aquaticus bacteria thrive in hot temperatures.

Microbes like Thermus aquaticus help create the rainbow of colors in the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park.

Microbes like Thermus aquaticus help create the rainbow of colors in the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park.

Sulfolobus live in volcanic springs.

Sulfolobus live in volcanic springs.

This is a type of cyanobacteria called Prochlorococcus marinus.

This is a type of cyanobacteria called Prochlorococcus marinus.

Extremophiles

Posted: November 1, 2021

Meet Dunaliella salina. It’s a type of algae . . . EXTREME algae. D. salina flourishes in salt pans. Salt pans are wide, flat, dried out places. These spots are too salty for most life. Salt draws moisture from cells. It can literally suck the life out of most creatures. Salt pans also receive a lot of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the Sun. UV radiation can damage or kill many living things.

Yet D. salina survives. Where does its superpower come from? The algae carry high levels of a liquid chemical called glycerol. They’re also loaded with vitamin A. Glycerol protects from salt. Vitamin A fends off UV damage. Lesson learned! People put D. salina in makeup and face creams. This helps protect from Sun damage and keeps skin moist.

Some like it hot. Thermus aquaticus likes it almost boiling! These bacteria live in thermal springs. As temperature rises, T. aquaticus stays in shape. It’s still intact above 140°F! That’s the temperature required to pull apart and copy DNA in order to study it. T. aquaticus’ heat-resistance allows scientists to copy strands of DNA. This quality really came in handy this year. Scientists used T. aquaticus to develop a common type of COVID test.

What’s unique about Sulfolobus? Sulfolobus is made of just one cell and lives in active volcanic springs. (Volcanic springs are born when underground water meets magma. The result is hot!) Most living things would boil to death in Sulfolobus’ home-sweet-home. And if the heat didn’t kill them, the volcanic acid would break them into bits. Sulfolobus helps scientists. They use it to study healthcare, genetics, and the environment.

Some Cyanobacteria lie beneath frozen lakes in Antarctica. Brrrr! But cyanobacteria seem to like the cold. They need very little heat and light. The cyanobacterium is a hard-core microorganism that can capture the Sun’s energy even deep in an ice-covered lake. Cyanobacteria use a purple pigment to absorb green light. Researchers use cyanobacteria for dietary supplements, fertilizer, food production, food colorings, fuel, energy, and medicines.