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Salt pools under the ocean kill everything that swims in them

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A new discovery of extreme habitats could help us solve three mysteries in one stone – providing new insight into how Earth’s oceans formed, unlocking the secrets of extraterrestrial life, and revealing potential compounds to fight cancer.

It’s all thanks to a team of researchers from the University of Miami who discovered massive deep-sea brine pools in the Red Sea that quickly kill or paralyze anything that enters them. living science.

Life exists on the fringes of these aquatic death traps; however, any unfortunate animals that dive below the surface do not survive and become marinated instead. However, these rare salt pools may hold clues to millennial climate changes in the region and may even shed light on the origin of life on Earth, according to a study published in the journal. Connection with nature Earth and environment shows.

Discovery of deep sea brine pools

In case you didn’t know, salt pans are very salty lakes that form on the seabed. They are some of the most extreme conditions on our planet due to being deprived of oxygen and having lethal levels of salt. They are also known for their extremophile microbes, which could shed light on how life began on Earth and how life may have evolved on water-rich worlds.

Deep-sea salt pools are known to exist in only three bodies of water: the Gulf of Mexico, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Red Sea. All the deep water basins of the Red Sea were considered to be located at least 15.5 miles (25 km) from the coast; however, this study changed the situation: scientists discovered the first such pools in the Gulf of Aqaba, the northern enclave of the Red Sea. Here the salt lakes are within 1.25 miles (2 km) of the shore.

Scientists discovered salt pools 1.1 miles (1.77 km) below the surface of the Red Sea during a 2020 expedition aboard the marine research organization OceanX’s OceanXplorer research vessel using a remote-controlled submersible. The new salt pools were named NEOM.

Salt pools NEOM. Source: OceanX/nature

“At this depth, there’s usually not much life on the sea floor,” explained lead author Sam Purkis, professor and chair of the Department of Marine Geosciences at the University of Miami. living science. “However, salt pans are a rich oasis of life. Thick carpets of microbes support a diverse set of animals.”

Understanding Life on Earth

Due to their proximity to the coast, these bodies of water may have received runoff from land that mixed terrestrial materials with their chemical composition. As a result, they have the potential to serve as an archive of thousands of years of tsunamis, floods, and earthquakes.

Purkis noted that core samples taken from the newly discovered brine pools provide “a continuous record of over 1,000 years of past rainfall in the region, as well as records of earthquakes and tsunamis.” And according to the team’s findings, major flooding due to heavy rains “occurs about once every 25 years, and tsunamis [take place] about once every 100 years,” which could change the outlook for the massive infrastructure projects currently being built along the coast of the region.

The implications of the discovery don’t end there, as the pool could also lead to microbial discoveries that could help develop new drugs and treatments. For example, deep-sea microorganisms living in brine pools have previously produced molecules with antibacterial and anti-cancer effects. And on a cosmic scale, salt pools can also help us unlock the secrets of extraterrestrial life.

“Our current understanding is that life originated on Earth in the deep sea, almost certainly in anoxic – without oxygen – conditions,” Purkis explained. “Deep-sea salt pools are a great analogue of the early Earth and, despite being devoid of oxygen and hypersalt, are teeming with a rich community of so-called ‘extremophile’ microbes. Thus, studying this community provides a glimpse into the sort of conditions under which life first appeared on our planet, and may help in the search for life in other “water worlds” in our solar system and beyond.”


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