Resistance of Microorganisms to Extreme Environmental Conditions and Its Contribution to Astrobiology
In the last decades, substantial changes have occurred regarding what scientists consider the limits of habitable environmental conditions. For every extreme environmental condition investigated, a variety of microorganisms have shown that not only can they tolerate these conditions, but that they also often require these extreme conditions for survival. Microbes can return to life even after hundreds of millions of years. Furthermore, a variety of studies demonstrate that microorganisms can survive under extreme conditions, such as ultracentrifugation, hypervelocity, shock pressure, high temperature variations, vacuums, and different ultraviolet and ionizing radiation intensities, which simulate the conditions that microbes could experience during the ejection from one planet, the journey through space, as well as the impact in another planet. With these discoveries, our knowledge about the biosphere has grown and the putative boundaries of life have expanded. The present work examines the recent discoveries and the principal advances concerning the resistance of microorganisms to extreme environmental conditions, and analyzes its contributions to the development of the main themes of astrobiology: the origins of life, the search for extraterrestrial life, and the dispersion of life in the Universe.
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