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Living In The Extremes Of The Biosphere
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Living In The Extremes Of The Biosphere

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Humans live in the biosphere's relatively cozy "comfort zone." But what if we didn’t? How would we fair in more extreme conditions? …

Humans live in the biosphere's relatively cozy "comfort zone." But what if we didn’t? How would we fair in more extreme conditions?

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  • 1. BIG HISTORY PROJECT / LESSON 5.3 LIVING IN THE EXTREMES OF THE BIOSPHERE Even though earthquakes, hurricanes, and hot, humid summers might make it seem otherwise, the fact is that humans live in a “comfort zone” close to the surface of the Earth. There are many species, however, that live outside of this comfort zone. What makes these regions different from the com- fort zone we live in? What challenges would humans face if they chose — or were forced — to live in the extremes of the biosphere? Look carefully at the image The Biosphere, on the next page, paying par- ticular attention to the information the image provides about the highest and lowest points above and below the surface of the Earth where species are found. Note what these extreme locations are like. As quickly as you can, make a list of 10 challenges that humans would face if they lived in these extremes of the biosphere. Be prepared to share your list with the class.
  • 2. BIG HISTORY PROJECT / LESSON 5.3 LIVING IN THE EXTREMES OF THE BIOSPHERE BIOSPHERE COMFORT ZONE RÜPPELL'S GRIFFON Gypps rupelli BAR-HEADED GOOSE Anser indicus MOST BIRDS Fly within 2 km of the ground MOST LIFE ON EARTH Lives in a thin layer on, near, or under the surface SPERM WHALE Physeter macrocephalus EXTREMOPHILE BACTERIA Staphylothermus marinus & Thermoproteus tenax DEVIL WORM Halicephalobus mephisto GIANT SQUID Architeuthis dux ANGLERFISH Cryptopsaras couesii SNAILFISH Liparidae FORAMINIFERA Single-celled protists 12 8.8 5 3 0 2 11 KILOMETERS AIR SEA LAND MOUNT EVEREST CHALLENGER DEEP Its summit 8,848 meters (29,029 feet) above sea level, Mount Everest is the world’s highest mountain. Located on the Nepal-Tibet border, Everest is one of many peaks taller than 8,000 meters in the massive Himalayan range. The Himalayas were formed 40–50 million years ago when the Indian plate collided with the Eurasian plate. The intense cold at this altitude makes for a rough habitat, but birds have been seen flying over Everest and some even nest on its lower slopes. At least 10,902 meters (35,768 feet) below sea level, Challenger Deep is the deepest depression in the western Pacific’s Mariana Trench. The trench, near Guam, was formed when the Pacific plate was subducted beneath the smaller Mariana plate. The pressure this deep in the ocean is more than a thousand times that at sea level, but some organisms thrive in these extreme conditions.