Extreme Halophiles

The extreme halophiles are found in very high numbers in highsalt environments such as salt lakes, soda lakes, and brines used for curing fish. Most can grow well in a saturated salt solution (32% NaCl), and they require a minimum of about 9% NaCl. Because they produce pigments, their growth can be seen as red patches on salted fish and pink blooms in concentrated salt water ponds (figure 11.31).

Extreme halophiles are aerobic or facultatively anaerobic chemoheterotrophs, but some also can obtain some energy from light. These organisms have the light-sensitive pigment bacteriorhodopsin, which absorbs energy from sunlight and uses it to expel protons from the cell. This creates a proton gradient that can be used to drive flagella or synthesize ATP.

Extreme halophiles come in a variety of shapes, including rods, cocci, discs, and triangles. They include genera such as Halobacterium, Halorubrum, Natronobacterium, and Natro-nococcus; members of these latter two genera are extremely alka-liphilic as well as halophilic.

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