Friday, November 11, 2011

Halophiles

Whoa!  Long time since my last blog post.  If I were a recovering blog addict, this might be a good thing, but alas, this is not the case.


A couple (a few?) posts ago, I used the word "halophile."  It was one of those cases where I knew what I wanted to say -- "Salt-lover" -- and so I employed the handy method of combining Greek root words.  Hal- means "salt" (e.g. "Halogen"), and, of course, Phil- means "lover" (e.g. "Philosopher," "Philanthropist," "Pedophile," etc.).  Wikipedia has a pretty handy list of Greek and Latin roots here.

So, once I had the word formed, I Googled it, and to my delight (but not surprise), the word exists.  Another time this has happened is when I used the word "Mensiversary" (composed of Latin roots) because I hoped there was a more efficient way of saying "One-month Anniversary."  It turns out this isn't an official English word, but I'm also not the first to use it, as a quick Google search shows.

Anyway, back to the point: Halophiles are a real thing.  They're organisms that thrive in environments with high salt concentrations, specifically five times higher than that of the ocean.  I particularly got a kick out of the fact that Halophiles belong to the larger concept of "Extremophiles" (organisms that thrive in extreme environments), which just goes to show that salt, too, is extreme.


Unfortunately, most (probably all) Halophiles are microscopic, so you probably won't be seeing any up close without a microscope.  It turns out that to live in such high concentrations of salt, you need to be wary of dessication (drying up), protein aggregation (who knows?), and all sorts of other silly microscopic things.  However, these are just a different set of issues for a unique environment.  In fact, Haloarchaea, a specific variety of Halophiles will perish when removed from their salty environs.  These guys require a whopping 2M salt concentration to survive, and can handle environments consisting of nearly 40% salt concentration.

Haloarchaea (Red Team) taking the San Francisco Bay Salt Ponds by storm.

Some other Halophiles include Dunaliella salina, which are actually used in cosmetics and dietary supplements for their anti-oxidant effects; Chromohalobacter beijerinckii, which were discovered in 1935 floating around in some fermented salted beans; and Tetragenococcus halophilus, which are active in the fermentation of soy sauce, miso, and salted anchovies.

12 comments:

  1. Nice post, I agree to your meanings.

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  2. I love that google exists! Being able to check on words that a part made up is something I could never do as a kid! (stupid 90's!) The thought of salt loving microscopic bugs is kinda cool to!

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  3. I guess it would be safe to say you're a halophile, considering you have a blog dedicated to it. I'm surprised when you googled "halophile" you didn't see some video game celebration centered around the Halo franchise.

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  4. At first I thought it meant Halo fan

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  5. if you live in the ocean are you a halophile??

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  6. Interesting stuff. I love my salt :p
    Great blog.

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  7. I never thought that salt was so interesting.

    why does it kill slugs ?

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  8. it sounds like you might need a high salt concentration to survive also?

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  9. @Trish

    I'm definitely going to have to do a post about that. Thank you for the idea!

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to prove that you're worth your salt.