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Organisms with small genomes, cells found thriving in hot soils

As the Earth warms, what life will survive and thrive? If the coal fire-fueled soils around Centralia, Pennsylvania, are any indication, organisms with smaller genomes and cells may do well in the future. The results of a new study represent the first time such microbes have been found afield. The research clearly shows that for soil microbiomes, hot temperatures result in both smaller genomes on average and smaller cell sizes. This isn't the case of simply one microbe embracing an economical approach; the majority of populations living in the steaming ground have these same traits. In an interesting twist, the tiny organisms' genome sizes resemble those found in a completely different region of the world -- those found in Arctic permafrost. Soil is one of the world's most complex, most diverse habitats. A single teaspoon may hold millions of microbes ­-- active and dormant. In fact, it's the dormant microbes that have attracted the attention of the research team, as they appear to be the leading potential source of these thermophile organisms in Pennsylvania.

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