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Bizarre creatures that go years without water. Others that can survive the vacuum of open space. Some of the most unusual organisms found on Earth provide insights for Washington State University planetary scientist Dirk Schulze-Makuch to predict what life could be like elsewhere in the universe.

NASA's discovery last month of 500 new planets near the constellations Lyra and Cygnus, in the Milky Way Galaxy, touched off a storm of speculation about alien life. In a recent article in the journal Life, Schulze-Makuch draws upon what is known about Earth's most extreme lifeforms and the environments of Mars and Titan, Saturn's moon, to paint a clearer picture of what life on other planets could be like. His work was supported by the European Research Council.

"If you don't explore the various options of what life may be like in the universe, you won't know what to look for when you go out to find it," said Schulze-Makuch, a professor in the WSU School of the Environment.

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