Inspired by the chilly weather brought by the #BeastfromtheEast I thought I would write a quick blog post discussing microbes that like the cold (which are called psychrophiles).
Psychrophiles are found in environments worldwide- including permafrost, glaciers and deep oceans.
One example of a cold loving ocean microbe is Pseudoalteromonas haloplanktis (see picture below). This bacteria is found in oysters in Antarctica in -20ºC waters. Interestingly, a closely related bacteria, Pseudoalteromonas haloplanktis tetraodonis, produces the neurotoxin tetrodotoxin. If you consume improperly prepared puffer fish- this toxin can be present and can actually kill you (scary stuff!).
There are many challenges to life at low temperatures. These challenges include reduced enzyme activity, ice formation inside cells, slower rates of DNA replication and issues with protein folding. If the microbes can overcome these issues- they stand a good chance of surviving.
In many cases microbes become so adapted to life in the cold, that they actually cannot survive in hotter temperatures!