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
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Item Holds
QL45.2 .W53 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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We are fascinated by the seemingly impossible places in which organisms can live. There are frogs that freeze solid, worms that dry out and bacteria that survive temperatures over 100˚C. What seems extreme to us is, however, not extreme to these organisms. 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. This book considers how organisms survive major stresses and what extreme organisms can tell us about the origin of life and the possibilities of extraterrestrial life. These organisms have an extreme biology, which involves many aspects of their physiology, ecology and evolution.

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