Books  Ecology  Evolutionary Ecology 

Life at the Limits: Organisms in Extreme Environments

By: David A Wharton

307 pages, 41 b/w illus, 12 figs, 4 tabs

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | Aug 2007 | #170540 | ISBN-13: 9780521039901
Availability: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £27.99 $34/€31 approx
Hardback | Dec 2002 | #123275 | ISBN: 0521782120
Out of Print Details

About this book

We are fascinated by the seemingly impossible places in which organisms can live. There are frogs that freeze solid, worms that dry out and bacteria that survive temperatures over 100 degrees celsius. What seems extreme to us is, however, not extreme to these organisms. In this captivating account, the reader is taken on a tour of extreme environments, and shown the remarkable abilities of organisms to survive a range of extreme conditions, such as high and low temperatures and desiccation.

This book considers how organisms survive major stresses and what extreme organisms can tell us about the origin of life and the possibilities of extraterrestrial life. These organisms have an extreme biology, which involves many aspects of their physiology, ecology and evolution.

Originally published in 2002.

'... a thorough and thoughtful survey of life under conditions that we humans ... tend to see as extreme.' New Scientist

'David Wharton's enthralling account of Life at the Limits [is] a survey not only of behaviour and physiology, but also some of the biochemical adaptations that characterise the ability of different organisms to survive the trials of their respective environments.' Cath O'Driscoll, Chemistry in Britain

'... my students and I will enjoy consulting this book in the years to come for its coverage, enjoyable style and background material.' Lynn Rothschild, Nature

'Highly recommended ...' P. R. Douville, CHOICE

'... a stimulating introduction to a fascinating aspect of biology. The author's own enthusiasm for his subject should be a valuable spur to young biologists.' Biologist

'This is an enjoyable and up-to-date book'. The Open University Geological Society Journal

'... presents the challenges of environmental extremes in an accessible style.' Times Higher Education Supplement

'Life at the Limits is an excellent description of how (mainly) microorganisms can exist at extremes in the environment ... this book is easily understandable and provides fascinating background information for the budding astrobiologist, as well as an excellent account of life in extreme environments on our own planet.' Sky and Telescope


Preface; 1. Introduction: extreme life; 2. Be it ever so humble ...; 3. Life without water; 4. The hot club; 5. Cold Lazarus; 6. More tough choices; 7. 'It's life, Jim, but not as we know it!'; 8. An extreme biology; Bibliography; Glossary; Index.

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David Wharton is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Zoology at the University of Otago, New Zealand, where his research has centred upon the extraodinary survival abilities of animals.

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