Science Snapshot: The Beach Beneath

By better understanding underwater brine pools, researchers could learn more about the evolution of life in our oceans and the potential for life on other planets.

Lisa Winter
Lisa Winter

Lisa Winter became social media editor for The Scientist in 2017. In addition to her duties on social media platforms, she also pens obituaries for the website. She graduated from Arizona State University, where she studied genetics, cell, and developmental biology.

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Jul 13, 2022
underwater brine pool
Brine pools don’t mix with surrounding water, giving the appearance of an underwater beach.
University of Miami

More than 1,700 meters below the surface of the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea lies something extraordinary and rare: a brine pool. These pools, which don’t mix with the water around them, are hyper-salty, completely lack oxygen, and serve as a time capsule for the geological features that existed when they formed, which could give clues to how our oceans initially formed. Researchers announced the discovery of these ethereal, Red Sea pools last month in a study that appeared in Nature Communications.

As unwelcoming as the brine pools may be to most creatures, there are extremophile microbes that are able to call these spooky habitats home. Studying these organisms could help reframe our thinking of how life could exist on other planets, as the presence of water (and, thus, oxygen) is regarded as one of the most basic requirements for life.