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Halophiles: Definition, Examples & Classification

Halophiles: Definition, Examples & Classification
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  • 0:05 Definition of Halophiles
  • 1:02 Classification
  • 1:50 Halophiles Examples
  • 3:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Derrick Arrington

Derrick has taught biology and chemistry at both the high school and college level. He has a master's degree in science education.

Some organisms thrive in conditions that would be impossible for the rest of us. In this lesson, you will learn about a group of unique organisms known as the halophiles.

Definition of Halophiles

All organisms have a specific set of conditions in which they thrive. Think about the way humans live. We prefer to live in set areas with certain weather conditions. Some people love to live in the North where there are long, cold winters. Others prefer to live by the beach where the temperature remains steadily constant and warm. There are many organisms that live in conditions that we would consider inhospitable.

Halophiles are organisms that live in extremely salty environments. The name 'halophile' means 'salt-loving' in Greek. Halophiles are all microorganisms. Most of them are bacteria, while some are very primitive eukaryotes. Eukaryotes are more complex organisms with a nucleus and membrane-bound organelles.

Halophiles are found in salty places, such as the Great Salt Lake in Utah and the Dead Sea. They are unique because they require high levels of salt that would be lethal to most organisms.

Classification

Halophiles can be found mostly in the domain Archaea, but there are a few in the domain Bacteria and domain Eukarya. Domain Archaea contains single-celled ancient prokaryotic microorganisms. This means they are all composed of one cell and do not have a nucleus or membrane-bound organelles in the cells. They are very primitive.

Domain Bacteria contains more recent organisms in the history of Earth. They can be in a variety of shapes and are prokaryotic as well. Domain Eukarya contains the most evolved organisms that have a nucleus and membrane-bound organelles.

Halophiles are typically categorized as slight, moderate, or extreme based on the amount of salt they can tolerate in their environment.

Halophiles Examples

While there are not a lot of known species of halophiles, the ones that have been discovered are quite diverse. One common example of a halophile is Halobacterium. It is a member of the domain Archaea and is found in bodies of water with extremely high concentrations of salt. Scientists have discovered that many of the proteins in the bacteria cannot function if they are not exposed to high concentrations of salt. These bacteria are either spherical or rod-shaped and can be colored red or purple.

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