The kingdom Archaebacteria
Hot springs at Geysir, Iceland: home of archaean extremophiles. Eruptions shower the ground every few minutes with super-heated, sulphide-rich water.
While in many ways strange, and challenging our ideas of where life can exist, it is the Archaea rather than the Bacteria that should be considered the ancestors of eukaryotic life, including ourselves. Our evolutionary connection to the more familiar bacterial prokaryotes is only through the ancient bacteria that were engulfed by equally ancient archeans, bacteria that then persisted by 'endosymbiosis', eventually to become the mitochondia and, in plants, chloroplasts and other plastids, of present day eukaryotic cells.
In the context of these biodiversity pages, where the primary aim is to provide illustrative images, it is not anticipated that there will be much opportunity to develop this section further. Accounts of this group should be found in modern textbooks, while useful Web summaries can be found by following the links below.
Links to further information
Introduction to the Archaea
(UC Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley)
Brief but useful account (which rejects the name "Archaebacteria").
The Tree of Life Project Root Page
(David R. Maddison and Wayne P. Maddison, University of Arizona)
Provides differing views on the evolutionary position of the Archaea and a valuable listing of literature references.