Laguna Roja, Chile. It looks as if a giant had emptied a bucket of red paint on this plateau in the unpopulated mountains of the Parinacota volcano region in northern Chile.The blood-red water that collects in the Laguna Roja has a temperature of 40–500 C (104–1220 F). The vivid colour is due to thermophilic red algae that thrive at these high temperatures. Bernhard Edmaier

Think near-boiling water is too hot to support life? Think again. The geysers and hot springs of Yellowstone National Park host an array of thermophillic, or heat-loving, microorganisms that can tolerate temperatures as high as 175 degrees Fahrenheit. These bacteria, along with other microorganisms like archaea, create the vivid color palettes of some of Yellowstone’s famed springs and geysers, like the Grand Prismatic Spring pictured here.

The blue center is the heart of the spring, where nearly boiling water makes it impossible for anything to survive, resulting in a startlingly blue hue. As the temperature dips farther out from the hot spring’s superheated center, though, more and more kinds of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms are able to endure. The different rings of color emanating from the steaming epicenter represent different microbial communities that call the spring home.

The most heat-tolerant cyanobacteria dominate the still-extreme temperatures in the yellow-colored ring, while the outer, orange layer hosts an array of organisms that can’t stand the heat quite as well as their neighbors. The colors of these rings also change in response to the time of year and other environmental factors. The cooler outer rings, meanwhile, form ecosystems of their own, hosting flies, mites, spiders, and other animals. Ephydrid flies feast on the bacterial communities and lay their eggs there, while predators like wolf spiders and parasites such as mites are drawn here because of the presence of the flies.

Find out about more amazing species thriving in exceptional environments in the special exhibition Life at the Limits, open now through January 2016. 


A Galaxy Far, Far Away Sullust

A Trailing Sectors Outer Rim thermophile planet at the crossroads of the Rimma Trade Route and the Silvestri Trace. Like Mustafar, Sullust’s primary geographic makeup is magma: under the gravity of Sullust’s two moons, the lava flows and ebbs like tides and cools into multicolored rainbow rock formations where the Sullustan species build their homes. Nien Nunb and Ten Numb, Resistance and Rebel Alliance pilots, came from Sullust.


Dr Warhol’s Periodic Table of Microbes

52. Te.  Thermococcus

Hot balls. If you have a Thermococcus, you have hot (thermo) balls (coccus).

Thermococcus is a salt water dwelling thermophile that enjoys living at high temperatures, from 70°C to 100°C (which is 158°F to 212°F, making it hotter than anything you or I could even imagine tolerating). In order to actually have water at 100°C, you need pressure (physics!). And guess what? Thermococcus loves pressure, some are barophilic and either need or tolerate pressures from 0.3 MilliPascals to 40 Millipascals. That’s 5,800 pounds per square inch, 835,000 pounds per square foot, or roughly the weight of 55 elephants standing on a piece of notebook paper.

If you find this fascinating, there are more than 30 species of Thermococcus to investigate. Most of the time you will find the organism hanging around deep sea hydrothermal vents. Not just one or two isolated vents; they have been found near Greece, the Guaymas Basin, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, New Zealand, and even in high-temperature oil reservoirs in Siberia.

And if that’s not enough, some have interesting nutritional requirements and only eat amino acids, and some resist extreme gamma radiation, like our buddy Rubrobacter. Thermococcus is considered to be an Archaean. As with all extremophiles, they are biochemically and metabolically adapted to live under intense conditions.

Thermococcus are Gram negative irregular spheres that are 0.6 to 2.0 microns in diameter.

Copyright 2016 Warhol.


Les microbes extrêmophiles sont des micro-organismes parfaitement adaptés à des conditions extrêmes pour l’homme. Certains sont dits thermophiles (hautes températures), d’autres psychrophiles (basses températures), halophiles (forte concentration en sel), acidophiles (pH faible), etc. Ils vivent dans des milieux particuliers, comme les abysses, les geysers, les calottes glacières… Voici donc sulfolobus, pyrolobus fumarii et thermoplasma !

(prière de ne pas les nourrir, même s’ils ont l’air gentils)


With the water jacket of the vat slowly warming the milk up nicely, at 32.4C we added the TCC-4 starter cultures. That’s thermophilic Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus helveticus (a classic fast acid producing and acid tolerant combo) to you and me. The helveticus also stops the mozzarella from burning when cooked on pizza. These are allowed an hour to get to know their new milky home and fill the milk with lots of friendly lactic acid bacteria. After an hour and at 37C, 8ml of Marzyme Vegetarian Microbial Rennet (because our animal rennet was a year out of date!) goes into the 40 litres of milk. This may have a slightly bitter taste in comparison to traditional rennet but not hugely noticeable hopefully.