Archaea may also give us a glimpse into how to look for life beyond Earth - Emma Berthold


image by: Pop Microbiology

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What are archaea?

Microorganisms seem to have a bad reputation a lot of the time. Many people think of them as causing infection and disease, except perhaps for those good ones that live inside us and help us digest food, among other things.

ut the world of microorganisms is much more vast, varied and vital to the ongoing function of our planet than any of us can imagine. Microorganisms are involved in ecological processes like taking CO₂ out of the atmosphere or recycling waste materials and nutrients. Many microbial species are still undiscovered, but there’s one group in particular that scientists know comparatively little about: the archaea.

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 What are archaea?

To understand what makes archaea special, we need to remember that life on Earth can be organised into three major groups, or ‘domains’: eukarya, bacteria, and archaea. All archaea and bacteria are microbial species (living things too small to see with the naked eye) and represent a vast number of different evolutionary lineages. In eukarya, you’ll find animals, plants, fungi and some other organisms called protists. Some of these eukaryotic groups contain microbial species, too.

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