Scientists Say: Archaea | Science News for Students

Scientists Say: Archaea

This a domain of single-celled microbes
Feb 5, 2018 — 6:30 am EST
morning glory hotspring
This is the Morning Glory hot spring in Yellowstone National Park. It gets its golden color from the archaea that thrive inside it.
ZYjacklin/Wikimedia Commons

Archaea (noun, “Ar-KEE-ah”)

This is the name for a whole domain of organisms. There are three domains of life — archaea, bacteria and eukaryotes, the group that contains plants, animals and us. Archaea are single-celled organisms. And for a long time, scientists thought they were a kind of bacteria. Now, though, they know archaea are their own distinct group.

Many archaea live in extreme environments. These are places where conditions like temperature or pressure are outside what we’d find comfortable. Examples that house archaea are hot springs, under Antarctic ice and in extremely salty lakes. However, other archaea live a more luxurious lifestyle. They hang out in New York City subways, in the blue ocean depths and even on our skin.

In a sentence

One kind of archaea doesn’t just hang out on own skin; it likes to slurp up our sweat.

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Power Words

(more about Power Words)

archaea     (singular: archaeon)  A domain of life that includes single-celled organisms. Although archaea superficially resemble bacteria, they are distinct. Archaea inhabit many harsh environments.

bacteria     (singular: bacterium) Single-celled organisms. These dwell nearly everywhere on Earth, from the bottom of the sea to inside other living organisms (such as plants and animals).

domain     An area or territory ruled by a political power; an area of knowledge or influence. (in math) The values that go into a function. (In taxonomy) The highest designation of organisms, above kingdom.

environment     The sum of all of the things that exist around some organism or the process and the condition those things create. Environment may refer to the weather and ecosystem in which some animal lives, or, perhaps, the temperature and humidity (or even the placement of components in some electronics system or product).

organism     Any living thing, from elephants and plants to bacteria and other types of single-celled life.