New parasitic interaction discovered in Antarctic lakes
We still understand very little about life in Earth's most extreme environments
When most people think of “parasites”, they imagine malaria, tapeworms, and the mind-controlling Toxoplasma gondii.
But researchers from the University of New South Wales in Australia have observed a new parasitic interaction in salty Antarctic lakes. The study has enhanced our understanding of how some organisms acquire nutrients and survive in freezing cold environments.
The researchers collected water from two different lakes in Antarctica and found that it contained a large amount of archaebacteria, which are highly resilient organisms that inhabit some of the world’s most extreme environments. They found especially high numbers of two species called Nanohaloarchaeum antarcticus and Halorubrum lacusprofundi.
Previously believed to be ‘free-living’ organisms, the Nanohaloarchaea are actually unable to survive on their own. Instead, they acquire essential nutrients by poking holes in H. lacusprofundi cells, sucking out their cytoplasmic “juices”, and feasting on their gooey insides. Yum!
We still have a lot to learn about how microorganisms survive in extreme environments, as evidenced by this fascinating discovery.