Push it to the limit: the extraordinary people and animals living the extreme life
Have you ever wanted to relocate, researched the climate of that place and then said “No, thanks.”? For example, Death Valley might turn some people off.
Everyone and everything on this list said, “bring it on!” as they’ve chosen the most extreme environments possible to claim as their territory.
These creatures are pushing their bodies to the limit in conditions where most are not welcome, proving the incredible strength of the biology. Adapting to hostile conditions also has another benefit: cutting competition. If the enemy dies within your environment, you win every time. Perhaps we can learn a thing or two about how to adapt from these superior survivors.
Bulging vents of Yellowstone to the eruptive explosions of Kilauea, we feature these extreme locations where life shouldn’t exists (but does anyway).
1. Feeble fanged foe
Straight out of your nightmares, the fangtooth fish is easily capable of surviving ocean depths exceeding 13,000 feet. In other words, there are few places where this little beast cannot journey. Everything has been specifically designed for the inhospitable: eyes scanning in low levels of light, body to endure the 1000+ pounds of pressure and fangs to hook small cretins who get near.
If it scares you, here’s some consolation: the fangtooth fish has a maximum length of 7 inches; Just as long as the 20 dollar bill. Not so frightening now, eh?
2. Chill out for the winter
Coming back from a heart-stopping incident is a true achievement for any human, but for the Wood Frog—Rana Sylvatica, it happens every winter for hibernation. While scientists don’t fully understand the phenomena of sudden heart-beating, the frog acts like nothing changed and begins to thaw out of a coma-like state.
Don’t get any ideas of sticking a wood frog in the freezer though, the process must be gradual, meaning nesting in the opportune area is the first step to frost mummification.
3. Putting “Death” in “Death Valley”
Four. Four people live in Death Valley Junction. 280 in total, that is adjusted for the -55% population “growth.” That’s right, negative population growth. Death Valley hemorrhages their potential population everyday. There are still a few brave souls willing to settle, despite the foreboding name. Here are more facts: it is the hottest habitable place on in the United States.
100° F is considered a mild day during summer months. Flora is present, but impossible long-term crop growth—brought on by heavy salt presence—ensures difficult access to food. Residents have made the simplest adaptation: journey elsewhere for necessary supplies.
4. The highest hiker
Cute, kind and small. A thick exoskeleton ensures the cold doesn’t bother the teeny hiker. The Himalayan Jumping Spider should count its lucky bugs, because there are very few plants, animals or things that can survive 22,000 feet above sea level.
Speaking of bugs, the spider must hope sources of nutrients are swept up the mountain, because flies, moths or anything with wings isn’t capable of flapping at that altitude. Also, it’s the undisputed crowned king of jumping.
5. Cockroach catastrophes
You too might be able to survive nuclear fallout if shedding your skin every so often was an option, but alas, it isn’t. Cockroaches are among the most repulsive bugs by popular vote, but they also happen to edge out humans by eons in adaptability.
Proportionally scaling a human’s speed to a cockroach would mean we could run about 190 miles per hour. Plus, the cockroaches shield-like exoskeleton makes it difficult to simply squish. As for food foraging, the cockroach learned to dodge predators and competition by doing everything during the night. Instead of joining the animal kingdom daytime, cockroaches decided to competitively beat them.
6. Opal oasis
If you are a fan of digging, or ever had ambitions to be a mole, the town of Coober Pedy, Australia is the place for you. 1,800 other excited excavators would be willing to show you the ropes. The vast majority of work in this underground town involves the mining of opal. The excavation life couples with the powerful heat to make for extreme living conditions. All mining materials often carry contaminants which could be poses health threats to workers and residents.
Not to mention, falling down abandon shafts is a very real possibility. Climbing to get to the next destination is not unheard of in case of cave-ins. Lastly, make sure the tunnel you are under is propped up properly. Many are the treacherous features of Coober Pedy.
7. Down in the deep blue sea
Sponges of the ocean floor and Spongebob, the character, share some characteristics: especially their ability to bounce back from harrowing situations. By virtue of being on the ocean floor, they have surpassed the success for millions of species.
It is an excellent strategy; most predators have no reason to harm the lounging loofahs, if they can even reach them. The last trick up their sleeve guarantees nothing living will want to touch them: by nestling next to hydrothermal vents, reaching far beyond 500° F, they are virtually isolated and free to carry about their business.
8. Radioactive residents
Signs warn civilians Danger! Radiation on every turn. Plants, trees and stray grass dies as you progress further into the city. While everything is screaming for you to leave, 600 people have decided to ignore all caution. In 1984, Chernobyl, Ukraine suffered the worst nuclear reactor meltdown the world has ever witnessed.
To this day, long term consequences follow when stepping into the city, though dogs and stray animals don’t seem to be too bothered by the force–there’s no shortage of bravery for Chernobyl residents.
9. Bacterial bath
Ever heard of the big fish in a little pond? Archaea, located in the roiling, boiling depths of Yellowstone’s national geysers, are the only fish in the pond. They have no competition because nothing else can survive in a face-melting acidic enclosure.
Don’t feel too jealous, Archaea have been doing this forever, well, 3.8-plus billion years to be exact. Over such a large expanse of time, they haven’t evolved much, but they maintain the extremophile lifestyle. Archaea are the prime example of ride or die.
10. Cold never bothered him anyway
Put this little red bark beetle in the freezer. It won’t care, in fact, it will welcome the cold with open arms-er…appendages. Of all the unsuspecting organisms and animals on this list, the red bark beetle has some pretty incredible super powers, including fluids made of antifreeze.
Thousands of years of adaptations yielded proteins that prevent internal fluids from sticking together, which allows safe journey in -100° C weather. If there is a league of superbugs, the red bark beetle would be on the roster.
11. Kilauea killer
Bravery, courage and incredible insurance coverage are the key items to live next door to the titanic Mt. Kilauea volcano. 2,800 people have iron wills to live in such an extreme environment. Besides the looming possibility of a fiery, apocalyptic emergency, there are other unsuspecting consequences associated with a volcanic home: horrendous air.
Once a volcano erupts in an area, SO2, known as Sulfur Dioxide, diffuses with the air and creates a huge health hazard. Staying near an active volcano is equivalent to smoking cigarettes, depending upon proximity. It affects atmospheric pressure, causing headaches, and can bring on acid rain that causes wild swings in humidity. Non-stable conditions are not for the faint of heart.
12. Saharan smarties
The Saharan Desert ant is a wonder in ingenuity. It is thoroughly aware of the sun’s potent UV powers and utilizes silver hairs as reflective material. For survival, the ant must keep its core body temperature at 54° C or below, otherwise, amino acids and proteins will begin to break down. How would humans fare in the Saharan desert sand?
Your feet would melt—literally. 160 F (70 C), the temperature of desert sand with intense sun beating down, would easily cause second degrees burns and would cleanly separate the skin from the foot. Oof.
13. Pals with pompeii worms
Despite its appearance as an creepy nether-demon, the Pompeii worm is actually rather smart in its choice of attire. The spines, frills and tentacle mouth resemble corals or sponges on the seafloor. Camouflaging into the environment protects from predators, but it is capable of much more: friendship. A friendly relationship with bacteria goes a long way when it prevents being burned alive.
Like sponges, the worms stay near hydrothermal vents, but it’s back cannot stand the heat, so it secretes a mucus that attracts bacteria, who shield the worm from overbearing temperatures. Friendship and ugly looks can go a long way apparently.
14. Clothes covered in creativity
Tube worms, which look more like plants than actual creepy crawlies, are another intelligent organism relying on the power of friendship. Hopefully, you wouldn’t make your friend eat poison, but local bacteria near hydrothermal vents do exactly that and then spit it back out towards the tube worms for nourishment.
The flora, the fleshy tip located at the top is the body of the organism, while it relies on chitinous clothes to protect from physical contact with predators or excessive heat.
15. Socotra serenity
Easily confused with an alien landscape, Socotra is on the Funkiest-Terrains-on-Earth list. It contains an incredible breadth of biodiversity, but a challenging cultural area to cultivate. 60,000 people would probably agree with that statement. Many dozens of flora located here cannot be found anywhere else on Earth. Like many extreme locations, the rainfall is ruinous—maybe if you are lucky—in December you will receive 3 inches of rain.
In addition, everything is sparsely located. The encroachment of people has only made the problem worse, now the dying biodiversity and lack of arable land serves as another obstacle. When foraging for food is also extremity, that is a testament to the people who live there.
16. Gaunt Greenland grandpa
Do you really want to live forever? The Greenland shark is definitely trying. Capable of dwelling in freezing water temperatures 1° C, it is also known as the “sleeper” fish because of its amazing energy conservation ability. Ocean temperatures and the subsequent insane lifespan would guarantee there will be only one true survivor after 200 years.
One certainly extreme case yielded a behemoth that could be fossilized; scientists estimated a Greenland shark captured off the North Atlantic Ocean was 300+ years old, potentially spanning over 500 years of age. We should definitely give him some anti-aging cream though, his age spots are showing.
17. Polar bear paradise
Polar bears are good for more than just Coca-Cola commercials—they are also extreme condition champions. Everything on this cute, cuddly creature has an evolutionary purpose. Extraordinary fur blocks out the -50° C average temperature while the white color camouflages them from predators during their youth.
Upon reaching adulthood, they find no natural predators — claiming their throne and the south pole’s apex predator. Thick paw insulation simultaneously allows for strong grip and excellent swimming ability. With so many tools under its belt, the polar is the Antarctic’s Swiss-Army knife.
18. Mecca melting
Mecca: one of the most beautiful cities to visit as a tourist. As a resident, however, it is more suited for the climate extremist. Temperatures reach 110° F during the day, and only falling to 80° F at night. If they are lucky, Mecca farmers will get 1 inch of rainfall a month.
Civilians must also cope with the sporadic weather cycle; they receive close to no rainwater, but suffer many bouts of flash-floods. While crops are dying in drought, a subsequent wave of water often wipes them out.
19. Ghostly ghoul of ocean ground
This fish is very close to resembling a ghost, because it is completely translucent. All of its organs are visible by a quick glance. Observation in its native environment? Much more challenging. The Snailfish dives to absurd depths around 36,000 feet, the approximate ocean depth of the Marianas trench. If you inverted Mt. Everest and placed it underwater, this creature could still dive deeper than any other.
The spherical head and perfectly tailored tail are built for withstanding ludicrous amounts of pressure—thousands of pounds per square inch—that would kill a human in half a second. An excellent example of not judging a book by its cover.
20. Titan tardigrade
Indestructible, bullet-proof and immortal—almost. These odd looking water bears are called tardigrades, Italian for “slow-stepper.” Not every creature can have it all, but the tardigrade has more than any living organism in the survivability department. When NASA pilots threw these 1mm bulbous bears into space, many lived to reproduce, shrugging off a lack of atmosphere like it was a cakewalk.
How is it capable of the most amazing organic feats we have ever observed? Sitting inside itself and lazing about. The pill shaped body is perfect for retreating, which is exactly what the water bear does when there is a lack of water. Once in sedentary state, it can slow down the metabolism and relax for decades. Talk about being comfortable in your own skin.
21. Coming around the mountain
50,000 people survive daily in conditions that would leave normal people gasping on the floor. Located 10,000 feet above the ground, harboring an average temperature of 35° F year round, the La Rinconada people are made of steel—or zinc, perhaps, because that is what the workers spend all day mining. In addition to the harsh altitude and temperature, all men in La Rinconada are miners, performing backbreaking physical labor.
Perhaps that altitude acclimation pays off, because scientist have found that there is an altitude “gene” passed down for each generation, making it easier to survive. Simply, the longer you suffer high up, the easier it gets.
22. Demon digger
Devil worm. An unpleasant name for a particularly ugly pest. The scientific name Halicephalobus Mephisto translates to “one who does not like light,” An accurate articulation. Located 2.2 miles below the Earth’s surface, bacteria buddies are all the company this guy shares.
One great advantage? Having a body only 0.2 inches long. Opening a can of devil worms wouldn’t be scary, considering the small size.
23. Sickening Snotties
That is not mucus dripping down from the ceiling, but it certainly has a snotty consistency. Snotties, a microorganism with a less than cute name, are not only poison gobblers, they also dish out poison. It takes one deadly gas, hydrogen sulfide (H2S), and turns it into something equally deadly.
This interesting gunk is sulfuric acid (H2SO4), which even in small quantities, can easily render a human seriously ill. It’s truly a bacterial goo that would fit nicely in a creepy sci-fi set design.
24. Nematode Nuisance
Whether you are a gardener or not, you’ve probably seen one of these little mischievous munchers before. Gardening with nematodes can a pain, which is reflected well on them, because it highlights ecological success. The nematode is a metaphor for life, where too much of anything in one sitting is bad for your health. Notice a few in your plants and you are a-ok, nevermind the more than the several scuff marks left behind. Now time to worry about plant integrity.
The microscopic nibbler has the ability to put up with the radical heat, cold and pressure within the Earth’s crust. Water? Not a problem, dehydration does nothing to them. Placed hundreds of feet below ground? Just another day at the office.
25. Aswan aquifer in need of acquisition
Do not let the picture deceive you, it is merely a mirage. Well, not really, but this location in Aswan, Egypt has a secret that makes life difficult. Before the construction of the Aswan dam, the city would get bouts of tremendous flooding. Even more ironic, Aswan gets 1mm (or zilch inches) of rain a year.
So, suffer a drought of water, then endure a barrage of rain over your village…great. Additionally, during the summer months—100° F is cool day. If you hate humidity, this is your go-to oasis.
26. Budding without a buddy
Bdelloid rotifers have been virgins for millions of years and still lead successful empires of organisms. For most life on earth, sexual reproduction can lead to a more advanced species. So scientists were astounded to find they reproduced asexually, meaning without another partner. How?
The bdelloid packs a little extra—extra chromosomes that is. Each time they reproduce, the surplus of genetic material allows for greater diversity, thus, greater chances of survival.
27. Yakon yucky winter
Oymyakon, arguably the coldest, most inhospitable place for people to live, still houses 500 people. Reaching below -80° F is the norm; quite often, everything in the town will be frozen, rending crops incapable of growth. Cold snaps with little clothes could kill a person within a minute.
November to January is a particular depressing time, because sun is visible for less than 10% of the month, meaning, a lucky person will see the sun one hour a day. These inhabitants could use a trip to the Bahamas, STAT.
28. No longer the dead sea
Saltiness in people can be found anywhere. Saltiness in bodies of water spells death for the vast majority of life. A special bacterium, Halobacterium, require large concentrations of salt in order to live. Reproduction is done by binary fission (budding), splitting one bacterium into two.
37 C or 100 F is the optimal temperature for these microscopic mutants, which makes it even more challenging for any other life to compliment them.
29. Hold your breath for this one
You have heard of living without a brain, but living without oxygen? Impossible. Impossible for all organisms and animals on the planet except for Spinoloricus cinziae—the only known thing on the planet who can survive its whole life without oxygen. It can be found relaxing 10,000 feet below the ocean floor, withstanding the brutal environment of the ocean depths.
Better yet? This creature was only recently discovered in 2010 and is now the number one contender for something that could tolerate Mars. Our first Martian resident very well could be a bug.
30. Way beyond waterlogged
The wettest place on Earth is not your local waterpark, it is Mawsynram, India, where they log an average of 460 inches of rainfall a year. How much is that? Tilt a school bus longwise towards the sky. Just a few miles east, citizens of Cherrapunji adapted to incredible disruptions and intelligent solutions. Above, living bridges, which can last for hundreds of years, are built from one site to another, avoiding the treacherous waterlogged trenches below.
Considering the power and frequency of rain, it would otherwise be impossible to grow crops, so Cherrapunji citizens also specialize in shielding their harvest with hand-woven roots and miscellaneous bark to prevent them drowning.
Humans, along with animals, regardless of their conditions, always find a way to overcome any challenges Mother Nature throws their way.
Don’t forget to share this article if you could survive with these people and creatures in extreme conditions!