#Archaea are more than just oddball lifeforms that thrive in unusual places: they turn out to be quite widespread. Moreover, they might hold the key to understanding how complex life evolved on Earth.
Enigmatic microbes called archaea are best known for living in extreme environments, such as deep-ocean vents and acid lakes. They might also hold the key to understanding how complex life evolved on Earth. Many scientists suspect that an ancient archaeon gave rise to the group of organisms known as eukaryotes, which include amoebae, mushrooms, plants and people. A surge in interest in these oft-overlooked microbes, and the ongoing invention of methods for tending to them in the laboratory, is bringing researchers closer than ever before to plausible evolutionary answers.
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