Did you know: The Alien World of Brine Pools 🎥
Updated: Nov 4, 2019
It is absolutely incredible to imagine that there are bodies of water within the sea that are saltier than the ocean itself. These brine pools are rich in methane creating an underwater coastline of mussels that live in symbiosis with methane loving bacteria, that attracts other deep sea animals. The brine itself is quite toxic and kills many different fish and other creatures, who happen to stray too far inside or stay too long. In fact, the only organisms that can withstand such noxious conditions are bacteria, tube worms and shrimp.
Brine Pool Shrimp - Credit OceanX “Exploring the Alien World of Brine Pools” (see video below)
The unique ecosystem that develops in these conditions may only be transient - showing Life's awesome ability to adapt. Our present understanding is that brine pools "cannot be assumed to be permanently stratified as significant mixing will occur as sediment gravity flows impact the brine pool and induce waves and mixing with ambient seawater." (Sawyer et al., 2019)
A brine pool is a large area of brine on the ocean basin. These pools are bodies of water that have a salinity three to eight times greater than the surrounding ocean. For deep-sea brine pools, the source of the salt is the dissolution of large salt deposits through salt tectonics. The brine often contains high concentrations of methane, providing energy to chemosynthetic animals that live near the pool. These creatures are often extremophiles (a microorganism, especially an archaean that lives in conditions of extreme temperature, acidity, alkalinity, or chemical concentration). Brine pools are also known to exist on the Antarctic Shelf where the source of brine is salt excluded during formation of sea ice. Deep-sea and Antarctic brine pools can be toxic to marine animals. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brine_pool)
Wikipedia, All Creative Commons
Brine Pool Eel NOAA - Wikimedia Commons
“Very few humans have ever seen the mysterious brine pools in person. This is an alien landscape of underwater lakes so salty that they kill most fish who get too close. The brine pools, however, are also thriving ecosystems, host to many species, and with a unique microbiological makeup that makes them extremely valuable to study.
As the OceanX team worked with the BBC on “Blue Planet II,” advisor scientists Dr. Sylvia Earle (of Mission Blue) and Dr. Samantha “Mandy” Joye descended in the Alucia submersibles to visit the brine pools and collect samples from this rarely visited ecosystem, which could lead to medical breakthroughs or provide clues to the origins of life.
(🎥 5:46 ) This video is a part of OurBluePlanet, a joint venture between OceanX Media and BBC Earth to get people talking about the ocean.”
OceanX, Published on 1 Mar 2019
Such brine pools offer scientists a glimpse into the fascinating world of underwater biology and geology. They are hoping that by studying these kind of organisms that thrive in this habitat, they can learn about life on other planets too.
ReefBuilders, Nov 2017 (viewed 18.08.2019)
Derek E Sawyer. R. Alan Mason, Ann E. Cook, and Alexey Portnov. "Submarine Landslides Induce Massive Waves in Subsea Brine Pools". SciRep, 2019. [Online] Accessed: 18.08.19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6333809/