A new discovery of extreme habitats could help us solve three mysteries with one stone – provide new insights into how Earth’s oceans were formed, unveil the mysteries of extraterrestrial life and reveal potential cancer-fighting compounds.
This is all thanks to a team of researchers from the University of Miami who, according to a first report, have discovered huge deep-sea brine pools in the Red Sea that will quickly kill or paralyze anything that enters them live science.
Life exists on the edge of these aquatic death traps; However, unfortunate animals that dive below the surface do not survive and are pickled instead. However, these rare brine pools could hold clues to thousands of years of climatic changes in the region and could even shed light on the origins of life on Earth, according to a study published in the journal Nature communication earth and environment shows.
Exposure of brine pools in the deep sea
In case you didn’t know, brine pools are extremely saline lakes that form on the ocean floor. They are among the most extreme environments on our planet, being devoid of oxygen and deadly salt concentrations. They are also known for their extremophile microbes, which may shed light on how life began on Earth and how life was able to evolve on water-rich worlds.
Deep-sea brine pools are known to exist in only three bodies of water: the Gulf of Mexico, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Red Sea. All deep-sea basins in the Red Sea have been assumed to be at least 25 km offshore; However, this study changed that, as scientists discovered the first such pools in the Gulf of Aqaba, a northern enclave of the Red Sea. Here the salt lakes are only 2 km from the shore.
Scientists discovered the brine pools 1.77 km below the surface of the Red Sea during a 2020 expedition aboard marine research organization OceanX’s research vessel OceanXplorer using a remote-controlled underwater vehicle. The new brine pools were called NEOM.
“There isn’t usually much life on the seafloor at this great depth,” explained lead author Sam Purkis, professor and chair of the Department of Marine Geosciences at the University of Miami live science. “However, the brine pools are a rich oasis of life. Thick carpets of microbes support a diverse group of animals.”
Understand life on earth
Because of their proximity to the coast, these pools may have received landflow that would mix terrestrial materials into their chemical composition. As a result, they could potentially serve as archives of tsunamis, floods, and earthquakes spanning thousands of years.
Purkis noted that core samples collected from the newly discovered brine pools “provide an uninterrupted record of past rainfall in the region dating back more than 1,000 years, as well as records of earthquakes and tsunamis.” And according to the team’s findings, “large-scale floods caused by heavy rain and tsunamis occur about every 25 years [take place] about once every 100 years,” which could change the perspective on the massive infrastructure projects currently under construction along the region’s coast.
The discovery’s implications don’t stop there, as the pool could also yield microbial discoveries that could aid in the development of novel drugs and treatments. For example, deep-sea microorganisms that live in brine pools have previously produced molecules with antibacterial and anticancer effects. And on a cosmic scale, the brine pools could also help us unveil the mysteries of extraterrestrial life.
“Our current understanding is that life on Earth originated in the deep sea, almost certainly under anoxic — without oxygen — conditions,” Purkis explained. “Deep-sea brine pools are a magnificent analogue for early Earth and, although devoid of oxygen and hypersaline, teem with a rich community of so-called ‘extremophile’ microbes. Studying this community, therefore, provides insight into the type of conditions under which life first appeared on our planet and could guide the search for life on other ‘aquatic worlds’ in our solar system and beyond.”