‘Earth’s most uninhabitable place’.
London: Scientists have found a aquatic environment on the Earth with absence of any forms of life, an advance that may lead to an understanding of the limits of habitability.
The study, published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, revealed any kind of microbial life was absent in the saline, hyperacid ponds of the Dallol geothermal area in Ethiopia. They stated it’s among the most torrid environments on the planet with temperatures in winter exceeding 45 degrees Celsius.
The scene, the investigators stated, had abundant hypersaline and hyperacid pools, together with pH — that is measured on a scale from 0 (very acidic) to 14 (very alkaline) — even hitting the negative mark.
Earlier studies had pointed that certain microorganisms can develop in this multi-extreme surroundings and researchers introduced the location as an illustration of ailments that can support life’s constraints. The investigators said the area was proposed as a terrestrial analogue of Mars.
“After analysing many more samples than in prior works, with decent controls so as not to contaminate them and a well-calibrated methodology, we have verified that there’s no microbial life in these salty, sexy and hyperacid pools or at the adjacent magnesium-rich brine lakes,” said research co-author Purificacion Lopez Garcia from FECYT.
The researchers discovered great diversity of a type of germs at the desert, along with the saline canyons around the website but not at the Yellow and Dark lakes, nor at the pools of Dallol that are rich in magnesium.
“And all this in spite of how microbial dispersion in this area, due to the wind and also to human visitors, is intense,” Lopez Garcia said. They researchers affirmed the findings with other methods such as a large scale sequencing of genetic markers to identify and detect bacteria, microbial culture attempts, using fluorescent probes to determine chemical analysis of the waters, human cells. They also used X-ray spectroscopy and electron microscopy to probe in the water samples.
According to the researchers, the analysis assists in understanding the limitations of habitability, also introduces proof that there are places even on the planet’s surface which are sterile although they contain liquid water. They stated the presence of water over a world — that is used as a criterion — does not imply the existence of life.