Madrid, 13 (European press)
These underwater salt lakes hold secrets about how Earth’s oceans formed millions of years ago and offer clues to life on other planets, according to their discoverers.
In partnership with OceanX, Sam Purkis, professor and chair of the Department of Marine Geosciences at the University of Miami, and his team made their discovery 1,770 meters below sea level using a remotely operated underwater vehicle.
“Until we understand the limits of life on Earth, it will be difficult to determine whether alien planets can support living organisms,” Birkes said in a statement. “Our discovery of a rich community of microbes that live in extreme environments may help trace the boundaries of life on Earth and may apply to the search for life elsewhere in our solar system and beyond.”
Saltwater pools are one of the harshest environments on Earth, but despite the water’s high salinity, strange chemistry, and complete lack of oxygen, these pools are teeming with life. Bioactive molecules with anticancer properties have previously been isolated from microbes in saltwater pools of the Red Sea.
The research, published in Communications Earth & Environment, is the first discovery of saltwater basins in the Gulf of Aqaba.
These highly saline and oxygen-depleted ponds are located near the coast, and they preserve information about tsunamis, flash floods, and earthquakes in the Gulf of Aqaba that occurred thousands of years ago. There are many faults and slits on the sea floor associated with the tectonics of the region in this region of the Gulf of Aqaba.
Earlier this year, Birkes and his team revealed evidence of a 500-year-old underwater landslide that likely triggered a major tsunami in the region, which could have repercussions for coastal development in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.