What's Going On?

Extremophile Snottites

Activity overview

15 mins
Ages 9 – 11

Science topics:

Living things and their habitats

Spark a conversation with this video showing snottites thriving in their cave habitat. This activity is great for describing observations and applying ideas in unfamiliar contexts.

Run the activity

1. You’re going to watch a short video. The aim isn't to find right answers, it's to explore ideas and find out what they know.

  • Are snottites living things? What is different about snottites to other creatures?

2. After you’ve watched the video, lead a discussion with your class:

  • What conditions do snottites need in order to thrive?
  • How is this different to the conditions that humans need to survive?

3. Ask the class to describe what they saw, using only one word.

Background science

Extremophiles are organisms that are able to thrive in extreme environments. We think that oxygen is essential for life to survive. However, some organisms flourish in environments with no oxygen at all.

Slimy snottites look exactly like snot or mucus. They live on the rocks at the back of the darkest caves. These mysterious organisms are actually large colonies of bacteria, living together as a biofilm. Snottites are found all over the world, in the most extreme places. One colony in Cueve de Villa Luz in Tabasco, Mexico, live in a toxic atmosphere of hydrogen sulfide, a gas that is toxic to humans.

Astro scientists are interested in studying extremophiles on Earth, because they give them some clues where to look for life on Mars. (See here) Due to the harsh atmosphere of Mars, extremophiles might have evolved to live in underground caves. There they would be protected from the relentless ultra violet rays of the Sun, the intense dust and the extremes of temperature. This could allow them to colonise an otherwise inhospitable planet.

 

The 2022 ExoMars mission is looking for signs of life on Mars. We've got lots of activities to support your own Mars exploration. Read more on our blog! 

Take it further

Draw up a list of requirements for life. Think about how humans have engineered clothing so that they can survive in space in Suits You. Consider other challenging environments with Tricky Living.

Discover more about extremophiles with Is there anyone out there?  Find out where they live and why astro scientists are looking for them. Research other extremophiles - what conditions do they need to thrive? Where are they found? What is their habitat like?

Video credit: Wonders of the Solar System/BBC, All Rights Reserved