Cover image for Life at the limits : organisms in extreme environments
Life at the limits : organisms in extreme environments
Wharton, David A.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, U.K. ; New York : Cambridge University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xi, 307 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library QL45.2 .W53 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Frogs that freeze solid, worms that dry out, and bacteria that survive temperatures over 100#65533;C are all organisms that have an extreme biology, which involves many aspects of their physiology, ecology, and evolution. These organisms live in seemingly impossible places and exhibit fascinating behavior. In this captivating account, the reader is taken on a tour of extreme environments, and shown the remarkable abilities of organisms to survive a range of extreme conditions, such as high and low temperatures and desiccation. Examples include: Hydrothermal vents Hot and cold deserts Polar regions hot springs alpine and winter temperate environments ocean depths, salt lakes, soda lakes, and estuarine muds, among other environments. Life at the Limits considers how organisms survive major stresses, and what extreme organisms can tell us about the origin of life and the possibilities of extraterrestrial life. David Wharton is a Senior Lecturer in Zoology at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. He has focused his research on the survival abilities of nematodes, resulting in the publication of over 75 research papers and one book, The Functional Biology of Nematodes (Croom Helm, 1986). His contribution to research was recognized by the award of the degree Doctor of Science by the University of Bristol in 1997. Recently, Wharton has become interested in the popularization of science through his involvement in the establishment of a Postgraduate Diploma in Natural History, Filmmaking and Communication, a collaboration between the University of Otago and Natural History New Zealand, a producer of natural history films based in Dunedin.

Author Notes

David Wharton is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Zoology at the University of Otago, New Zealand.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

To humans caught in their well-defined limits of temperature, pressure, acidity, salinity, etc. (the human "life box"), anything outside these limits seems extreme. Of course, to organisms living in their "extreme" life boxes, our human life box would seem extreme. Yet, on Earth there do seem to be preferred conditions for life, and Wharton (zoology, Univ. of Otago, New Zealand) discusses population differences in organisms living in different life boxes and provides explanations for the success of extremophiles and the reasons for limited populations in such extreme environments as Antarctica. He discusses organisms ranging from camels to space-traveling microorganisms, using a smooth, easy-to-read style for his descriptions of these organisms and their habitats, and he writes high-quality, understandable explanations of subjects like osmosis, biological classification, cell chemistry, and the second law of thermodynamics without becoming too technical for the educated general reader. The book has up-to-date discussions of such subjects as astrobiology, controversies surrounding life searches on Mars, and the theory of oil production by microorganisms. Glossary; chapter bibliographies. Highly recommended for anyone interested in or involved in the field of biology. All levels. P. R. Douville emeritus, Central Connecticut State University

Table of Contents

1 Introduction: extreme life
2 Be it ever so humble âÇ 
3 Life without water
4 The hot club
5 Cold Lazarus
6 More tough choices
7 'It's life, Jim, but not as we know it!'
8 An extreme biology

Google Preview