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J Geophys Res. 1997 Oct 25;102(E10):23,675-86.

The limits of life on Earth and searching for life on Mars.

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Center for Great Lakes Studies, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, USA.
U WI, Milwaukee


Considerations of basic properties of bacteria such as size, structure, and metabolic versatility allow one to understand how these remarkable life-forms are so adaptable to environments previously thought to be uninhabitable. It is now appreciated that bacteria on Earth can utilize almost any redox couple that yields energy, taking advantage of this energy, while transforming the elements during metabolism. The ability to grow at the expense of inorganic redox couples allows the microbes to occupy niches not available to the more metabolically constrained eukaryotes. Furthermore, the simplicity of the bacterial structure allows them considerably more resistance to environmental variables (pH, salinity, temperature) that are toxic or lethal to more complex organisms. This information can be used to explain the predominance of prokaryotes in extreme environments on Earth, and to speculate as to simple types of metabolism and biogeochemical cycles that may exist on this planet, Mars, and perhaps other non-Earth environments.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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