From Abby Olena at The Scientist:
Many strains of archaea are capable of living in environments with high salt concentrations, and others are able to produce methane, but only a few can do both. In a study published today (May 26) in Nature Microbiology, researchers identified and cultured two lineages of methane-generating archaea that thrive in salty lakes. The two strains—part of a class the authors named “Methanonatronarchaeia”—appear to be most closely related to the Halobacteria, a class of archaea found in salt-rich environments worldwide.
The authors compared representative genomes of the two lineages to each other, as well as to the genomes of other archaea. These comparisons suggested that the common ancestor of archaea was a methane-producer, a hypothesis that others have explored as well. They also found genomic evidence that this class of archaea copes with high salt concentrations by transporting potassium ions into their cells, rather than by excluding salt, behavior that is more similar to halophilic archaea than to other methanogens. More.
The archaea, as it happens, were only discovered comparatively recently and identified by the decidedly non-Darwinian Carl Woese. They appear to have specialized in living off environments nothing else wants by using processes nothing else does. We will see stranger things yet, doubtless.
See also: Bacterium breaks all the rules. Cell structured like animal.
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