Yes, you read the title right.

Naturally this cannot be DNA/RNA based, the highest temperature organisms have survived as we know it is 122 degrees celsius and Venus surface is 4 times hotter on average.

So, what mechanisms could support a living organism on the surface of Venus?

Specify the chemical base, the internal cellular organization(there may only be one cell), and the mechanisms to reproduce (I do not doubt that carbon-dioxide-breathing organisms exist, but not under these extreme temperatures and pressures as I know it.)

Thank you for the input! I will read and appreciate all answers.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "I do not doubt that carbon-dioxide-breathing organisms exist:" Well, you should doubt that. I don't see any way for an organism to use carbon dioxide as the final electron acceptor in its metabolism. (Which is what "breathe carbon dioxide" means.) It would required a healthy scoop of magic. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Oct 17, 2020 at 22:34
  • $\begingroup$ I doubt that I should doubt that. sciencealert.com/…. $\endgroup$
    – Lelu
    Oct 17, 2020 at 23:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That bacterium does not breathe carbon dioxide. It feeds on carbon dioxide. You know, just like all those algae and plants out there. (Converting carbon dioxide into alcohol is not novel; plants convert carbon dioxide into sugars, and ordinary yeast converts sugars to alcohol. What is novel is that the new bacterium can directly use hydrogen as an energy source.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Oct 18, 2020 at 0:07
  • $\begingroup$ OK, fair point. What is the hydrogen content of Venus' atmosphere? $\endgroup$
    – Lelu
    Oct 18, 2020 at 0:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It's not viable at Venus's temps and pressures $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Oct 18, 2020 at 0:22

2 Answers 2


How about a natural heat pump?

You're right that the temperature is too high for life as we know it to exist. However look at humanity, we need 37 degree temperature yet can survive temperatures up into the 40s and 50s, and short bursts in saunas over 100 degrees. We do this using an active cooling system, we use the evaporation of water to cool us down when the environment gets too hot.

Theoretically the same water evaporating process could work on Venus, but liquid water wont be found and you need a steady supply to keep your temperature manageable. Evaporative cooling wont work on venus long term.

What can work is a heat pump. Similar to what's in your air conditioner and fridge, a bacteria could compress and expand a substance in order to transfer heat. Bacteria growing on the surface could pump heat from themselves into the surface in order to keep their internal temperature manageable.

Heat pumps have an effective range based on the substance they use. Heap pump appliances on earth loose efficiency at very high temperatures (my hot water system cant heat water if the outside temperature is over 48 degrees), however different substances, or a mix of them, could allow a heat pump to work on venus.

This is highly unlikely to evolve naturally, could be an interesting story point explaining who made it.

Or a natural theremoelectric cooling process.

Current flowing through two conductors with differing properties can create a flow of heat too. This is used in camping / car fridges. If your bacteria has an external coating of two different conductors and a power source, it can transfer heat from itself outward.

While this is simpler than a heat pump, it's also highly unlikely to evolve naturally. Given the required materials are fairly exotic, it may not be able to reproduce.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ So, what substances could the organism use for a heat pump system? I.e. what has a high boiling point and is available on Venus, if I understand you correctly? (The thermoelectric cooling process is cool pun intended but I think has less chance of reproducing and therefore any detection would be by pure chance.) $\endgroup$
    – Lelu
    Oct 18, 2020 at 12:41

Carbon - sulfur chemistry.

One set of creatures lives in the mid atmosphere and the other near the surface. They gain energy by catalyzing sulfur / carbon chemistry that is energetically favorable in their respective environmental circumstance.


We now understand that the sulfur cycle on Venus consists of at least two cycles. (1) Above the cloudtops, SO2 is oxidized to SO3, leading to the formation of H2SO4. In the lower atmosphere SO3 eventually reacts with CO to restore SO2 and CO2. (2) OCS is the major carrier of sulfur from the surface to the middle troposphere, where it is converted to CO and Sx. At or near the surface, the reverse reaction occurs, resulting in the recombination of CO and Sx to OCS.

The working fluid of these creatures will be siloxanes and silicones, made of silicon available in the crust and oxygen stripped from CO2. Genetic information will be transmitted as self replicating crystals. The cell wall will be much like a radiolarian test or shell, comprised of opaline silicon dioxide.

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting idea. Can this concept only apply to unicellular organisms or multicellular life as well? $\endgroup$
    – Lelu
    Oct 18, 2020 at 12:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Lelu - it is such a broad idea, with the most tenuous basis in biological energetics and much handwaving physical chemistry. Sure you could make multicellular life following these principles. Perhaps the multicellular big ones are on the surface and are heterotrophs, living on the autotrophs which cycle up to the atmosphere and capture energy in chemical form. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Oct 18, 2020 at 14:46

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