Review Paper

Reviews in Environmental Science and Bio/Technology

, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 203-218

Extremely halophilic archaea and the issue of long-term microbial survival

  • Sergiu FendrihanAffiliated withDepartment of Microbiology, University of Salzburg
  • , Andrea LegatAffiliated withDepartment of Microbiology, University of Salzburg
  • , Marion PfaffenhuemerAffiliated withDepartment of Microbiology, University of Salzburg
  • , Claudia GruberAffiliated withDepartment of Microbiology, University of Salzburg
  • , Gerhard WeidlerAffiliated withDepartment of Microbiology, University of Salzburg
  • , Friedrich GerblAffiliated withDepartment of Microbiology, University of Salzburg
  • , Helga Stan-LotterAffiliated withDepartment of Microbiology, University of Salzburg Email author 

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Abstract

Halophilic archaebacteria (haloarchaea) thrive in environments with salt concentrations approaching saturation, such as natural brines, the Dead Sea, alkaline salt lakes and marine solar salterns; they have also been isolated from rock salt of great geological age (195–250 million years). An overview of their taxonomy, including novel isolates from rock salt, is presented here; in addition, some of their unique characteristics and physiological adaptations to environments of low water activity are reviewed. The issue of extreme long-term microbial survival is considered and its implications for the search for extraterrestrial life. The development of detection methods for subterranean haloarchaea, which might also be applicable to samples from future missions to space, is presented.

Keywords

Extreme halophiles Haloarchaea Life detection Microbial longevity Salt mines Salt sediments Space missions Subterranean Taxonomy of halobacteriaceae