Published in journal, ‘Nature Ecology and Evolution’, research reveals that Dallol is completely lifeless. Read on to know why. By Shrimayee Thakur
Despite the presence of water, the ‘elixir of life’, Dallol geothermal field in Ethiopia does not harbour any life. A recent research showed that the hot, salty and acidic ponds of Dallol do not allow survival of even microorganisms in them. The researchers, including those from the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology, said that Dallol’s ponds extend across a volcanic crater in the Ethiopian Danakil depression, full of salt, toxic gases and boiling water, a reaction to intense hydrothermal activity.
According to the research, Dallol’s ponds are among the most scorchingly hot places on the planet, with temperatures hovering at around 45-degrees Celsius even in winter. The researchers said that Dallol’s landscape has both highly saline and highly acidic pools in abundance, with pH, which is measured on a scale of 0 (very acidic) to 14 (very alkaline), even going below 0, into negative figures.
Previous studies had claimed the presence of certain micro-organisms that can grow in this extremely inhospitable environment, the new research, however, shows that it cannot support life at all. It was even presented as a terrestrial analogue of early Mars. Researchers said that they analysed many more samples than previous studies, ensuring that there was no contamination, and came to the conclusion that there is no microbial life in the salty, acidic lakes, or in the magnesium-rich brine lakes nearby.
The researchers found a huge variety of a type of primitive salt-loving micro-organisms in the Ethiopian desert, as well as the saline canyons around the Dallol geothermal field, but none in the extremely saline and acidic pools or in the Black and Yellow lakes of Dallol, which contain large amounts of magnesium. This is especially strange, according to them, when taking in the fact that there is an intense distribution of microbes in the area, due to the wind and the presence of human visitors.