The high salt and no oxygen combo of a newly discovered deadly brine pool in the Red Sea kills almost any critter with the misfortune to swim into it. This salty spot 1.1 miles below the sea’s surface is one of Earths’ most extreme environments, according to scientists who published their paper last month in the journal Nature.
“Any animal that strays into the brine is immediately stunned or killed,” said Sam Purkis, a University of Miami researcher, as reported by Live Science.
Purkis led a team of scientists who found the pool using a remote-operated underwater vehicle in a 2020 exploration. Creatures in the know — savvy shrimp, fish and eels — float in wait outside the pool, swallowing up the unfortunates that overdose on brine.
Brine pools aren’t a new scientific discovery, but this one is surprisingly close to the shore — just 1.25 miles off Egypt’s coast. Before this discovery, the closest known Red Sea brine pool was more than 15 miles offshore.
In addition to the Red Sea, which contains about 25 known brine pools, the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Mexico are other international brine pool hot spots. A YouTube video explains the formation of these odd undersea dead zones. The Gulf of Mexico was shallow during the Jurassic Period. Closed off by land, the sea evaporated, leaving a lot of salt. Layers of sediment protected it.
Later, when the gulf filled in again, cracks in the sediment eventually let some water seep in, mixing with the hidden salt. Then dense, salty water slipped out, pooling into basins and forming undersea lakes. This sort of salt tectonics results in beautiful underwater ridges and valleys. And a deadly environment for unsuspecting fish.
The newly discovered pool is in the Gulf of Aquaba at the Red Sea’s northern tip. This was the first pool in the area scientists have found outside the Red Sea proper. Scientists are excited because they believe the pool’s hyper-salinity might offer clues to early life on Earth — and even beyond it.
Lead image via Pexels