Newly discovered deep-sea salt pools offer clues to extraterrestrial life and may contain potential cancer-fighting compounds.
A research team from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science has made its discovery in the Gulf of Aqaba, which is an extension of the Red Sea. The scientists discovered rare saline pools that contain clues about how the world’s oceans formed millions of years ago. They may thus shed some light on the subject, What the origins of life on Earth looked like and… beyond.
In collaboration with OceanX, Sam Purkis, professor and chairman of UM’s marine science department, and his team made their discovery at a depth of more than 1,700 meters. They used a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) to do so. They conducted their research from aboard the OceanXplorer research vessel. This is a highly specialized and well-equipped vessel that allows them to explore the most inaccessible places on Earth.
Until we know the limits of life on Earth, it will be difficult to determine whether there is life on other planets. Our discovery of a rich community of microbes that survive in extreme environments can help trace the limits of life on Earth. It can also be applied to the search for life elsewhere in the solar system and beyond – Purkis said.
Deep saline pools are one of the most challenging environments on Earth. However, despite their high salinity and complete lack of oxygen, they are teeming with life. Interestingly, bioactive molecules with potential anti-cancer properties were previously isolated by scientists from microbes in salt pools in the Red Sea.
We were very lucky. The discovery came in the last five minutes of the ten-hour ROV dive we were able to devote to the project – Purkis said.
Scientists have discovered deep-sea saline pools close to the coastline. These salty, oxygen-deprived places preserve information about tsunamis, flash floods and earthquakes in the Gulf of Aqaba that occurred thousands of years ago. In this area of the Gulf, there are many faults and cracks in the seafloor associated with the tectonics of the region.
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