Life

on the

Edge

 

Michael Gross:
Life on the Edge. Amazing Creatures Thriving in Extreme Environments
Hardback: Plenum, May 1998;
reprinted by Perseus Books August 1999, ISBN 0-306-45786-5, $ 25.95, 200 + xiii pp.
Paperback (with a new afterword): Perseus Books January 2001, ISBN 0-738-20445-5, $ 15.00, 210 + xiii pp.

 

Life on the Edge - summary

The book starts off with an introduction into life, its basic requirements and limits, leading to an attempt at defining the "normality" from which life's eccentrics deviate. Then we shall embark on an armchair voyage around the extremely hostile places on our planet, and make the acquaintance of their well-adapted inhabitants. Their niches can be quite small, such as caves underneath the ground, or really vast, such as the ice fields of Antarctica. We will face abrupt temperature drops, fatal pressure changes, and various chemical stress factors. And everywhere we will encounter organisms which not only tolerate these stress conditions but even can't live without them. After these impressions you may be curious to know how these organisms manage to cope with all these hostile conditions. Chapter three will give you some of the many different answers that Nature has come up with. Due to the importance of biochemical details for the stress responses and adaptation mechanisms, you may find this chapter a little bit more demanding than the bulk of the text. Don't give up, because afterwards it will be downhill all the way. The amazing abilities of various microbes to deal with extreme conditions have also excited the imagination of both biotechnologists and medical researchers, and applications affecting our everyday lives may not be that far off. Once upon a time, conditions were extreme virtually everywhere on our planet. At the time when life originated, the Earth was an entirely different place from what it is today. Therefore, the origin and early evolution of life can very well be counted as "life on the edge" and shall be discussed in detail in chapter five. And at the very end we will raise our views beyond the horizon of our home planet and ask whether there is life out there, in the extreme environments that may exist on other planets.

 

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last update:

01.11.2002