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Big Picture Science

Your show­er pipes are alive. So are your sinks, books, and floor­boards. New stud­ies of our homes are reveal­ing just what species live there – in the thou­sands, from bac­te­ria to flies to mil­li­pedes. Mean­while, life keeps sur­pris­ing us by pop­ping up in oth­er unex­pect­ed places: the deep bios­phere hous­es the major­i­ty of the world’s bac­te­ria and the Arc­tic tun­dra has kept worms frozen – but alive – for 40,000 years.

We embrace the mul­ti­tude of life liv­ing on us, in us, and – as it turns out – in every pos­si­ble eco­log­i­cal niche. Most of it is harm­less, some is ben­e­fi­cial, and it’s all tes­ta­ment to the amaz­ing diver­si­ty and adapt­abil­i­ty of life. In addi­tion, the hardi­est organ­isms sug­gest where we might find life beyond Earth.