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Candy-pink lagoon serves up salt-rich diet for potential life on Mars

21 Sep 2018, 18:41 UTC
Candy-pink lagoon serves up salt-rich diet for potential life on Mars
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The discovery of a microorganism that gives a candy-pink lagoon in central Spain its startling colour is providing new evidence for how life could survive on a high-salt diet on Mars or Europa. The Laguna de Peña Hueca, part of the Lake Tirez system in La Mancha, has very high concentrations of salt and sulphur and is a good analogue for chloride deposits found in the Southern highlands of Mars and briny water beneath Europa’s icy crust. The results of a study of microorganisms found in the lake will be presented at the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) 2018 in Berlin by Dr Felipe Gómez. Dr Rebecca Thombre and Dr Gómez collected samples of lagoon water and studied the physical characteristics and genetic sequence of the isolated microorganisms. They found that the lagoon’s pink colour derives from the red cells of a sub-genus of the salt-loving algae Dunaliella. This extremophilic algal strain from Laguna de Peña Hueca has been named Dunaliella salina EP-1 after the Europlanet 2020 Research Infrastructure, which funded the study through its transnational access programme. “Dunaliella salina EP-1 is one of the most salt-tolerant extremophiles that we’ve found,” said Dr Thombre, of the Department of Biotechnology, at ...

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