DNA sequencing has revealed {that a} brilliant pink lake on an island off Western Australia will get its color from a mixture of salt-loving micro organism and algae


10 March 2022

Aerial view of Lake Hillier, Middle Island near Esperance

Aerial view of Lake Hillier, Australia

Tourism Western Australia

The bizarre bubblegum pink color of a distant lake in Western Australia has lengthy been a thriller, however new analysis suggests it’s brought on by a mixture of vibrant micro organism and algae.

Lake Hillier is situated on Center Island off the southern coast of Western Australia. The lake is 600 metres lengthy, 250 metres extensive and very salty – about eight occasions saltier than the ocean.

Scott Tighe on the College of Vermont in Burlington grew to become focused on Lake Hillier after seeing it on a tv programme. “I assumed, that’s wonderful. I’ve obtained to recover from there and seize samples and sequence the heck out of it,” he says.

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Tighe is a co-founder of the Excessive Microbiome Undertaking (XMP), a global collaboration searching for to genetically profile excessive environments world wide to find new and attention-grabbing microbes.

He teamed up with Ken McGrath at Microba, a microbial genomics firm in Brisbane, Australia, who visited Lake Hillier to gather water and sediment samples.

Tighe, McGrath and their colleagues analysed the samples utilizing a way referred to as metagenomics, which sequences all of the DNA in an environmental pattern directly. Highly effective computer systems then tease out the genomes of particular person microbes.

Their evaluation revealed that Lake Hillier incorporates nearly 500 extremophiles – organisms that thrive in excessive environments – together with micro organism, archaea, algae and viruses. Most had been halophiles, a sub-group of extremophiles that may tolerate excessive ranges of salt.

A number of of those halophiles had been vibrant microbes like purple sulphur micro organism; Salinibacter ruber, that are red-orange micro organism; and red-coloured algae referred to as Dunaliella salina. The combo of those microbes, and presumably others, explains the pink color of the lake, says Tighe.

The explanation why these microbes are colored could also be that the purple, pink and orange pigments they include – generally known as carotenoids – present some safety towards excessive saltiness, says Tighe.

A number of the microbes found in Lake Hillier seem like new to science, however they nonetheless have to be absolutely characterised, he says.

XMP scientists have additionally sampled different excessive environments, reminiscent of Darvaza fuel crater in Turkmenistan, often known as the “Door to Hell”; the Dry valleys of Antarctica; brine lakes which might be 3.5 kilometres beneath the ocean off western Greenland; and Movile collapse Romania.

The staff is now planning to pattern the Danakil despair in Ethiopia, which incorporates poisonous sizzling springs, and Lake Magic in Australia, which is “so acidic it’s like battery acid”, says Tighe.

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Excessive Microbiome Undertaking scientist Stefan Inexperienced sampling Darvaza fuel crater in Turkmenistan

Excessive Microbiome Undertaking

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Excessive Microbiome Undertaking researchers Scott Tighe and Sarah Johnson sampling the Dry valleys of Antarctica

Excessive Microbiome Undertaking

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Excessive Microbiome Undertaking scientist Samantha Joye sampling a deep-ocean brine pool within the Alvin submarine within the Gulf of Mexico

Excessive Microbiome Undertaking

Journal reference: BioRxiv, DOI: 10.1101/2022.02.17.480683

Learn extra: Biology’s moonshot: The mission to decode the DNA of all life

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