The recent finding of extreme habitats may help us answer three mysteries at once: it may bring fresh insights into how the oceans of Earth created, it may expose the secrets of extraterrestrial life, and it may uncover possible molecules that can cure cancer.
According to an early report by Live Science, this is all owing to a team of researchers from the University of Miami who discovered large brine deep-sea pools in the Red Sea. These pools immediately kill or paralyze everything that enters them, and the discovery was made possible by the Red Sea.
There is some form of life that may be found on the fringes of these aquatic death traps; however, any unfortunate animals who venture beneath the surface do not survive and instead become pickled. According to a study that was recently published in the journal Nature Communications Earth and Environment, rare brine pools may hold clues about millennia-long changes in climate in the region, and they may even be able to shed light on the origins of life on Earth. [Citation needed] [Citation needed]
The discovery of brine pools in the depths of the ocean
In case you were unaware, brine pools are lakes that occur on the seafloor and are extraordinarily high in salt content. As a result of the absence of oxygen and the presence of high quantities of fatal saline, these habitats are among the harshest that can be found anywhere on our globe. They are also well recognized for the extremophile bacteria that they harbor, which have the potential to give light on how life first began on Earth and how life could evolve on worlds with abundant water.
It is only known to exist in three different bodies of water: the Gulf of Mexico, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Red Sea. Deep-sea brine pools are only found in these three bodies of water. Prior to this study, it was believed that all deep-sea pools in the Red Sea were located at least 15.5 miles (25 km) offshore; however, this study has changed that, with scientists uncovering the first pools of this kind in the Gulf of Aqaba, which is a northern enclave of the Red Sea. The briny lakes lie less than 1.25 miles (about 2 kilometers) from the coast in this area.
During a trip in 2020 aboard the research vessel OceanXplorer, which is owned by the marine exploration group OceanX, scientists used a remotely controlled underwater vehicle to locate brine pools 1.17 miles (1.77 kilometers) below the surface of the Red Sea. NEOM is the name given to the new brine pools.
Sam Purkis, the lead author of the study and a professor and chair of the Department of Marine Geosciences at the University of Miami, noted to Live Science that “at this tremendous depth, there is normally not much life on the bottom.” “On the other hand, the brine pools host a diverse and thriving ecosystem. A wide variety of animal life can be found living in thick carpets of microorganisms.”
Comprehending the nature of life on Earth
The proximity of these pools to the coast makes it likely that they have absorbed runoff from the land, which would have resulted in the incorporation of terrestrial components into their chemical make-up. As a consequence of this, they have the ability to act as a record of earthquakes, tsunamis, and floods that have occurred over the course of thousands of years.
According to Purkis, the core samples that were retrieved from the recently found brine lakes provide “an uninterrupted record of past rainfall in the region dating back more than 1,000 years, in addition to records of earthquakes and tsunami.” And, according to the findings of the team, large floods from heavy rain “occur approximately once every 25 years, and tsunamis [take place] approximately once every 100 years,” which could shift the perspective on the massive infrastructure projects that are currently being constructed along the coastline of the region.
It is possible that the pool will also generate microbial discoveries that will help in the creation of new medicines and therapies. This is just one more way in which the finding could have far-reaching repercussions. For instance, deep-sea microorganisms that live in brine pools have been shown to produce compounds that have antibacterial and anticancer properties. In addition, on a galactic scale, the brine pools may be able to assist us in deciphering the mysteries of extraterrestrial life.
According to Purkis’s explanation, “our present view is that life originated on Earth in the deep oceans, very definitely under anoxic circumstances,” which means conditions devoid of oxygen. “Deep-sea brine pools are a perfect analog for the early Earth and, despite being devoid of oxygen and hypersaline, they are teeming with a large community of so-called “extremophile” bacteria. These microbes can survive in environments with very low levels of oxygen and very high levels of salt. The investigation of this community therefore provides an insight into the kinds of conditions that were present when life first appeared on our planet. This knowledge may prove useful in the quest for life on other ‘water worlds’ within our solar system and beyond.”