Sunday, May 6, 2012

A term in biology: psychrophile for cold-temperature microbe

The noun psychrophile refers to a cold-loving microorganism. This scientific term derives from the Greek words psychros and philos for “cold” and “love.” The corresponding adjective is psychrophilic.

The term cryophile, derived from the Greek word cryos for “cold” or “icy cold,” is often used as a synonym. Another synonym is rhigophile (for example, see page 21 in [1]). Cold conditions are those below the freezing point of water, under which organisms typically cannot access nutrients to efficiently sustain an existence such as being considered to be alive.

Psychrophiles are extremophiles, which live under extremely cold conditions (seen from a human viewpoint). Microbes that thrive in the other extreme, hot and very hot conditions, are called thermophiles and hyperthermophiles, respectively. Psychrophilic life forms include cold-adapted archaea that have been studied, for example, by the microbiologist Ricardo Cavicchioli at the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia), who collected species from the Antarctic [2].

Low-temperature conditions are also found in space and on celestial objects, including environments on planets and moons of the solar system. Therefore, astrobiologists are interested in cold-adapted microorganisms such as psychrophiles [3]. 

Keywords: microbiology, astrobiology, biotechnology, archaea, tree of life, extraterrestrial life, frigid temperatures.

References and more to explore
[1] M. Sc. Ahmed Abdel-Megeed: Psychrophilic degradation of long chain alkanes. Ph. D. Dissertation, Technical University Hamburg-Harburg, Germany, 2004 [].
[2] Tim Friend: The Third Domain. The Untold Story of Archaea and the Future of Biotechnology. Joseph Henry Press, Washington, D.C., 2007; pp. 221-222.
[3] Teach Astronomy > Psychrophyles:

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