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New Zealand's extremophiles

Taupo Volcanic Zone map

Many novel microorganisms are readily detected in New Zealand’s extreme habitats.

Hot springs, bubbling mud pools, crater lakes, undersea volcanoes and other geothermal environments are without exception ‘extreme’. The only life forms that survive such harsh conditions are unique forms of microorganisms – which are colloquially known as ‘extremophiles’. These microorganisms thrive where temperatures can be as high as 120˚C, the pH can range from highly acidic to strongly alkaline, and there are elevated concentrations of salts and/or heavy metals.

New Zealand is renowned for it's unique biodiversity. It is especially endowed with a richness of extremophilic microorganisms.

The nation’s location on the collision boundary between two tectonic plates has created a chain of undersea and terrestrial volcanoes and geothermal systems, ideal environments that are supportive of extremophilic microbial communities.

These habitats extend from the Kermadec Arc down through the Taupō Volcanic Zone (TVZ, see Figure), ending at Mt Ruapehu.

We have studied microorganisms that inhabit submarine hydrothermal systems and onshore geothermal systems.