Archaea were, until recently, considered to be confined to specialized environments including those at high temperature, high salinity, extremes of pH and ambients that permit methanogenesis. Recently developed molecular methods for studying microbial ecology, which do not necessitate cell culturing, have demonstrated their presence in a wide variety of temperate and cold environments including agricultural and forest soils, fresh water lake sediments, marine picoplankton and deep-sea locations. These discoveries mark the beginnings of a new era for investigating the Archaea and in particular their physiological and metabolic properties and their biological roles in complex microbial populations.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors’ research is supported by EU grants ERBB104CT960488 and ERBBI04CT960270.