The Prokaryotes are a group of organisms whose cells lack a cell nucleus, or any other membrane-bound organelles. The organisms whose cells have a nucleus are called eukaryotes. Most prokaryotes are unicellular organisms, although a few such as myxobacteria have multicellular stages in their life cycles or create large colonies like cyanobacteria. Prokaryotes do not have a nucleus, mitochondria, or any other membrane-bound organelles. In other words, all their intracellular water-soluble components (proteins, DNA and metabolites) are located together in the same area enclosed by cell membrane, rather than separated in different cellular compartments.

The division to prokaryotes and eukaryotes reflects two distinct levels of cellular organization rather than biological classification of species. Prokaryotes include two major classification domains: the bacteria and the archaea. Archaea were recognized as a domain of life in 1990. These organisms were originally thought to live only in inhospitable conditions such as extremes of temperature, pH, and radiation but have since been found in all types of habitats.

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