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Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture

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Published: 31 May 2018

It’s not every day a TIA researcher stars at an astrobiology conference, but in 2017 senior research fellow Dr Ross Corkrey presented findings that fundamentally change our understanding of life on Earth.

It’s been known for some time that the growth rates of phytoplankton have an upper limit. Dr Corkrey’s team established that the maximum rates of growth of all life have a distinct upper limit, even when grown under optimal conditions, and which varies predictably with temperature. In PLoS One, they termed this sharp boundary the Biokinetic Spectrum for Temperature (BKST), the first time this boundary has been identified and described.

No species from any biological domain is known to grow at a rate exceeding the BKST. While the biological factors that determine the limit are unknown, growth rates are important when considering how temperature and other stressors affect disease spread, food spoilage, and ecological processes. For astrobiologists, the BKST can also serve as a signature summarising the nature of life in environments beyond Earth.

Want to know more? Read the PLOS One article