Extreme Red Sea: Life in the Deep-Sea Anoxic Brine Lakes

In: Human Interaction with the Environment in the Red Sea
Author: André Antunes

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Tectonic splitting of the Arabian and African plates originated the Red Sea together with one of the most unique, remote, and extreme environments on earth: deep-sea anoxic brine lakes. They combine multiple extremes namely increased salinity (7-fold), temperature (up to 70°C), concentration of heavy metals (1,000- to 10,000-fold), and hydrostatic pressure.1

Despite such harsh conditions, they harbour an unexpectedly high biodiversity and are teeming with life. Increased interest in their microbiology led to multiple recent and on-going studies. Highlights of this research include: the isolation, physiological characterisation and genome sequencing of unusual new extremophilic microbes; the identification of several novel phylogenetic lineages; and on-going cultivation- and molecular-based assessment of microbial community variation between and within different brines.2

The uniqueness of these environments offers a high potential for discovery of new microbes, strategies and biomolecules to cope with extreme conditions, and biotechnological applications.

Human Interaction with the Environment in the Red Sea

Selected Papers of Red Sea Project VI