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Received August 20, 2007
Thermal habitats harbor specialized communities of thermophilic microorganisms, primarily prokaryotes. This review considers modern systematics of prokaryotes and the place of thermophilic archaea and bacteria in it. Among the existing hierarchical classifications of prokaryotes, the bulk of attention is given to the one accepted in the current second edition of Bergey's Manual of Systematic Bacteriology, which is primarily based on 16S rRNA phylogeny and phenotypic properties of the organisms. Analysis of the genomics data shows that they on the whole agree with the 16S rRNA-based system, although revealing the significance of the evolutionary role of lateral transfer, duplication, and loss of genes. According to the classification elaborated in the current edition of Bergey's Manual, the prokaryotes currently culturable under laboratory conditions are distributed among 26 phyla, two of which belong to the domain Archaea and 24 to the domain Bacteria. Six phyla contain exclusively thermophiles, and eleven phyla contain thermophiles along with mesophiles, thermophiles being usually separated phylogenetically and representing high-level taxa (classes, orders). In light of the data on the topology of the 16S rRNA-based phylogenetic tree and some other data, this review discusses the probable hyperthermophilic nature of the universal common ancestor.
KEY WORDS: genosystematics, phylogenetic systematics, hierarchical classification, prokaryotes, archaea, bacteria, thermophiles