The Dead Sea earned its name because its 33 percent salinity prevents the growth of most organisms. It’s one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water which is why microbiologists were surprised to find thick biofilms on its sea floor.
These microbial mats were growing on craters where jets of fresh water from undersea springs entered the bottom of the lake. And these areas were teeming with new species. The community was so diverse you would expect to see it in a lake, not an extreme salty environment.
An earlier expedition revealed there’s about 30 craters on the sea floor that could be home to these microbial communities and the team from the Max Planck Institute in Germany will return to the Dead Sea to study them. I wonder what other interesting things they will find? A bacteria that could remove salt from saline water or one that holds the cure to a disease? [National Geographic; Image from Christian Lott, Hydra Institute]