Scientists Say: Archaea

This a domain of single-celled microbes


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.

Check out the full list of Scientists Say here

Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

More Stories from Science News Explores on Microbes