Tuesday, June 5, 2012

UNM's Diana Northup Part of Famous Slime Team

Extremophiles are “lovers of extreme conditions,” explains an article titled, “Some Like It Very Hot,” in the “Intelligent Life” insert in the May 12 edition of “The Economist.” Extremophile creatures live in place unavailable to people—1.6 km under the ocean seabed, next to seabed hot vents and in Mexican caves full of hydrogen sulphide.

The Mexican caves are of interest to Diana Northup, a University of New Mexico biology professor. The walls are covered with bacteria Northup calls “slime” that excrete concentrated sulphuric acid that eats he cave walls.

Northup says, “Yes, we were pretty narrow in our thinking. That’s what extremophiles have done for biology. They’ve opened our eyes… if you only think about life in terms of your condition, you can miss a lot of what’s going on in the planet.”

Four others at UNM are considered members of the Slime Team. The website is: www.caveslime.org. “Slime” is an acronym for “Subsurface Life in Mineral Environments.”

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