Antarctic Microbes Can Survive on Air Alone

By Stephanie Pappas

Talk about an extreme diet. Antarctic microbes are capable of surviving on air, according to a new study published in the journal Nature.

Soil microbes that live in polar deserts must contend with extremely dry conditions, nutrient-poor dirt and 24-hour darkness for half the year. Now, a genetic study of some of these microscopic survivors reveals that they pull it off by gleaning trace gases right out of thin air.

“This new understanding about how life can still exist in physically extreme and nutrient-starved environments like Antarctica opens up the possibility of atmospheric gases supporting life on other planets,” study leader Belinda Ferrari, a microbiologist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, said in a statement.

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