Two major types of environment provide habitats for the most xerophilic organisms known: foods preserved by some form of dehydration or enhanced sugar levels, and hypersaline sites where water availability is limited by a high concentration of salts (usually NaCl). These environments are essentially microbial habitats, with high–sugar foods being dominated by xerophilic (sometimes called osmophilic) filamentous fungi and yeasts, some of which are capable of growth at a water activity (aw) of 0.61, the lowest aw value for growth recorded to date. By contrast, high–salt environments are almost exclusively populated by prokaryotes, notably the haloarchaea, capable of growing in saturated NaCl (aw 0.75). Different strategies are employed for combating the osmotic stress imposed by high levels of solutes in the environment. Eukaryotes and most prokaryotes synthesize or accumulate organic so–called ‘compatible solutes’ (osmolytes) that have counterbalancing osmotic potential. A restricted range of bacteria and the haloarchaea counterbalance osmotic stress imposed by NaCl by accumulating equivalent amounts of KCl. Haloarchaea become entrapped and survive for long periods inside halite (NaCl) crystals. They are also found in ancient subterranean halite (NaCl) deposits, leading to speculation about survival over geological time periods.