Deep in the depths of the Dead Sea, new life has been discovered. Thanks to newly found freshwater springs, certain forms of bacteria thrive, bacteria that, unlike other known freshwater and saltwater bacteria, can cope with rapidly changing salinity. It's the intriguing results of the first study of the Dead Sea in years, a rare undertaking partly because "accidentally swallowing Dead Sea salt water would cause the larynx to inflate, resulting in immediate choking and suffocation."
When the Jordan River's entry into the Dead Sea was cut off in the 1950s to provide more fresh water for Jordan, the sea's main source of fresh water was cut off. Ever since, the Dead Sea has been getting deader and deader, as far more water evaporates than is fed back into it (the sea's water level sinks by about four feet every year). But the high and fluctuating salinity of the Dead Sea leads to all kinds of weird bacterial developments, as in the algae blooms of 1980 and 1992 that turned the sea red. Just this past week, researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev released the results of a study that shows two major findings. First, there are freshwater springs deep in the craters on the floor of the Dead Sea. Second, there are huge mats of thriving bacteria down there--and the researchers have never seen bacteria that can survive in these conditions before. (They're not aliens, though. That'd be crazy.)
More complex animals like fish, amphibians, and marine snakes can't survive in the Dead Sea. But mats of
bacteria prokaryotes, mainly in the domain Archaea [note: this was misidentified in previous versions of this article, thanks DNALX], survive in the freshwater-spouting craters. Says National Geographic: "The top of the springs' rocks are covered with green biofilms, which use both sunlight and sulfide—naturally occurring chemicals from the springs—to survive. Exclusively sulfide-eating bacteria coat the bottoms of the rocks in a white biofilm." There's no record of this kind of bacteria ever surviving in this kind of condition--saltwater bacteria of this type can't survive in freshwater, and vice versa, yet here's bacteria that survives in both.
More studies will be undertaken, though it's not an easy place to dive: buoyancy is a major struggle, and the high salinity is extremely dangerous for humans (aside from that whole "inflated larynx leading to immediate choking and death" thing, it also "burns and likely blinds the eyes"). Still, the researchers are planning for another trip in October to further study this bacteria. Check out video of the dive below.
First of all, FIRST.
Now, why cant they dive? they can dive in a protected suit that would shield the eyes, and weights could be added to counteract the buoyancy problem.
that's crazy XD hahahaha
I don't think that it is not that they can't dive, but that it is dangerous to do so. The article stated that one swallow of the water will pretty much kill you. From my experience diving I have had the water get in my mouth on plenty of occasions.
@Sax59128: "Now, why cant they dive? they can dive in a protected suit that would shield the eyes.."
You clearly have never been scuba diving. Murphy's law applies. Sometimes water gets in where it is not supposed to. Even in ideal conditions, scuba diving is one of the most dangerous sports out there. Doing it in water that can kill instantly or permanantly blind you if you get some in your mask, is crazy dangerous. Certainly not something you do for sport.
Why would water with high salinity be as deadly as they describe? Is it actually the water itself or the combination of water with pressure past a certain depth?
I can find nothing that even mentions this problem... In fact I've found several sites discussing swimming in the dead sea, where the only concern noted about accidentally swallowing the water, simply advises against not swallowing too much due to dehydration.
The salt draws water out of your cells, causing dehydration
Not to mention the taxation of your organs that have to filter it out...
Never drink seawater. Start by drinking your own urine and collecting rainwater in a disaster scenario
I took the article at its word about the instant death/ blinding part. I did find some information saying that the salinity level increases as you go deeper. Perhaps the locations they are diving are more dangerous than the surface. Or perhaps it is all hyperbole.
It is simply inaccurate that if you swallow Dead Sea water you immediately die due to larynx inflation induced choking and suffocation. Only 3 out of 37 nearly drowned patients die due to hypercalcemia in a month time. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2384729
It might be in part the kind of slats that are in the water. I know that copper salts are poisonous, becuase copper being the metal in them is poisonous. The other thing that it might be is that the amout of salt you would take in would suck out so much water from your body that you can't get enough water in to you or the amout of water you would need will kill you.
Bacteria and archaea are different. Archaea are not bacteria.
This sentence: "But mats of bacteria, mainly in the domain Archea" has a couple things that could be fixed to make it more truthful reporting.
1) the "domain Archea" is spelled Archaea.
2) Use the term prokaryotes. "But mats of prokaryotes, mainly from the domain Archaea" accurately distinguishes that there are both bacteria and archaea present in the mats but mostly archaea.
This may seem silly, but if you wrote a story about apples and oranges, and had a sentence talking about apples that said "but bushels of apples, mainly oranges" - that just wouldn't make sense. If you said "But bushels of fruit, mainly oranges" - now that makes sense. Just a heads up.
You'd have to be pretty gutsy to dive in there.
If you could live in a place that nobody else could live and not be bothered by anyone, wouldn't you learn to adapt and live there too?
@MP. You mean like Canadians?
here's the reality of what scientists are seeing in its infantile stage.. ok we have bacteria that thrives on alkalai and sulfurous matter. so therefor we can say that it could in a genetically altered form utilizing a say dry lake bed and sprinkler setups find a way to use this bacteria to calalyze the alkalai flats and produce a fuel source. just dont let it get free in the ocean
It's a great discovery. I think that discoveries like this and a win in the New7Wonders of Nature (you can vote here: www.facebook.com/VoteDeadSea )will bring more funds to research of this place.
I always enjoy reading about new life found undersea because it highlights how much we still have to learn from the seafloor. I recently served as principal science advisor for a new National Geographic book, The Big Idea: How Breakthroughs of the Past Shape the Future, and in it we discuss Underwater Exploration. It is amazing that less than 1% of the seafloor has been explored and that we know more about the solar system than we do about the deepest parts of our own planet! Speaking of exploring in space, understanding how bacteria can survive in these extreme conditions might even help us in our search for life on other planets.
-Prof. Jim Trefil, Principal Science Advisor The Big Idea: How Breakthroughs of the Past Shape the Future