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Any of a group of microorganisms that resemble bacteria but are different from them in certain aspects of their chemical structure, such as the composition of their cell walls. Archaea usually live in extreme, often very hot or salty environments, such as hot mineral springs or deep-sea hydrothermal vents, but some are also found in animal digestive systems. The archaea are considered a separate kingdom in some classifications, but a division of the prokaryotes (Monera) in others. Some scientists believe that archaea were the earliest forms of cellular life. Also called archaebacterium.