earthbound

6 extreme living things that could help us find aliens

Shutterstock

The search for alien life is bigger than ever thanks to huge investments in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a big focus on finding Earth-like worlds outside our solar system, and current and future international missions to intriguing places in our own home star’s pantheon of planets and moons.

Pixabay / Obelixlatino

Suzuki et al. 2020,

But we still only have one place we know for sure where life can be found: here on Earth. But thankfully, there are some life forms we share our planet with that give us clues to environments life could survive on other worlds.

vernonwiley/E+/Getty Images

Life on Earth extends beyond plants and animals. Some life on Earth survives extreme conditions, which gives us hope for finding life on other planets that may be too hot, too cold, or have low oxygen.

NASA

Here are six extreme life forms on Earth that give us hope for finding extraterrestrial life on other planets.

STEVE GSCHMEISSNER/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

#6 — Tardigrades, also known as water bears, are pond-dwelling, near-microscopic animals with eight stubby arms and a strong will to live.

STEVE GSCHMEISSNER/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

Tardigrades are known to survive in the harshest environments — even in outer space. They can withstand temperatures as cold as -328 degrees Fahrenheit or as hot as more than 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Caitlin Devor, University of Tokyo, CC BY 4.0

#5 — In October 2020, scientists discovered life in the most unlikely place: hidden in the cracks of volcanic rock deep beneath the seafloor.

Suzuki et al. 2020,

The team of researchers found colonies of bacteria on ancient volcanic rock, which they believe hold similar qualities to rocks on Mars.

ISME Journal

#4 — Desulfotomaculum is a genus of bacteria that don’t need the Sun to survive. Instead, they get their energy from radioactive metals like uranium found in rocks.

MBARI

#3 — Volcanic tubeworms survive in cold, high-pressure environments at the bottom of the deep sea where they feed off nutrients emitted by volcanic vents on the seafloor.

ultramarinfoto/E+/Getty Images

The tubeworms can grow up to 10 feet in length but have no eyes, mouths, or intestines.

C. Fischer, Source: NOAA

#2 — Hesiocaeca methanicola, better known as ice worms, are vampire species that stay away from the Sun and prefer bitter cold environments where they can feed on algae and plankton trapped within glacial ice.

Gross et. al 2007 PLOS.

#1 — Deinococcus radiodurans are classified as the world’s toughest bacteria in the Guinness World Records as they can survive exposure to tremendous amounts of radiation, as well as extremely cold or acidic environments.

Read more of our biology and space coverage