The Only Water on Earth Without Life - Lake Harding Association

The Only Water on Earth Without Life

The Only Water on Earth Without Life

By Micah Moen 100 Comments February 11, 2020


♪♪♪ Wherever there’s water on Earth, there’s
a pretty good chance that you’ll find life. Like, even in the driest part of the Atacama
Desert in South America, single-celled organisms live in rocks that extract water from the
air. And in Japanese hot springs, there are microbes
that survive an acidity on par with battery acid. So, in almost any water that would be deadly
to you or me, there’s probably something that calls it home. But there are a few places full of water that
appear to be completely inhospitable to life: some super acidic, super salty, and super
hot pools in Ethiopia’s Dallol geothermal field. And so far, these pools are the only wet places
anyone has found on Earth that don’t host life. The Dallol geothermal field is at the top
of a volcanic crater filled with salt, and it’s a pretty dreadful place to try and
live. It’s got toxic gases coming out of cracks
in the ground, temperatures above the boiling point of pure water, and ridiculously acidic brines. So, these pools aren’t exactly jacuzzis. But some scientists who study extremophiles—or
organisms that live in extreme environments—wondered if anything was possibly alive in there. After all, they’d found a lot of single-cell
archaea in nearby areas, including the land around the water, where conditions aren’t
as extreme, but aren’t exactly homey either. So, between 2016 and 2018, an international
team of researchers collected 200 water samples from multiple locations in the area to hunt for life. They took water from the steaming-hot, extremely
acidic ponds at the top of the Dallol dome, as well as from the nearby Black and Yellow
Lakes, which were not as hot or acidic but were super salty. And these samples were completely devoid of any native life. The only signs of life scientists detected
were bacteria that appeared to have come from humans or the lab equipment. And there were others that might have blown
in on dust carried by the wind. But there was not a single native organism,
or any evidence that these foreign cells could actually survive the conditions in the Dallol pools. And there are some pretty good reasons why
nothing would want to live there. For one, there’s the temperature. The temperatures in these pools range from 40 to 108 degrees Celsius. And when temperatures get too high, molecules that cells need to function, like proteins, start to lose their shape. And if they’re the wrong shape, they can’t
do their jobs. Which is bad, since they’re basically involved
in every part of keeping cells up and running. And under really extreme temperatures, proteins,
and even DNA, will just break down altogether. That’s not the only problem in these pools, either. On top of the heat, they’re extremely acidic. When acids are dissolved in water, they produce
hydrogen ions, which are just plain old protons. And those ions are eager to chemically react
with proteins, which, again, messes with a cell’s ability to function. So high temperature and acidity are a pretty deadly combination. But to top it all off, these pools are also
extremely salty. Living organisms need some salt in their lives, but too much quickly turns deadly. If the concentration of salt in water outside a cell is higher than what’s on the inside, water will rush out of the cell to try to
balance everything out… and the cell will shrivel up like a raisin. So that’s bad to begin with, but certain
salty solutions are extra-deadly. Some salt ions, like magnesium, are what’s
called chaotropic, because they cause chaos. They break hydrogen bonds between water molecules,
which can then lead to the breakdown of the complex molecules that organisms need to live and function. In case that’s not bad enough, these ions
also interact with water molecules in a way that prevents cells from being able to use
that water in important chemical reactions. So these ponds are not welcoming to living things. But it’s still kind of surprising that there’s
nothing living there. Because, as deadly as these conditions are, around the planet, there are certain extremophiles that can deal with some of these ridiculous
challenges. For example, thermophiles have extra-hardy
proteins with extra bonds built in that help them hold their shape. Some of them also have special proteins to
repair molecules that have been damaged by heat. And then there are the so-called acidophiles,
which are either really good at pumping protons out of their cells, or have special compounds
to help keep protons out entirely. And there are halophiles, which have have
evolved to tolerate extreme salinity. For example, some of them build up a bunch
of potassium ions or other compounds on the inside to balance out extreme salinity on the outside. So there are single-celled organisms that
can handle extreme environments. And there’s even life that can handle more
than one of these deadly conditions at a time. But the Dallol pools seem to be especially
deadly. And no one knows exactly why, but there are a few ideas. It may be that its conditions are on the extreme
end of extreme. Like, the salinity in the Black and Yellow
Lakes is over 50 percent, meaning that the lake is half salt. For comparison, the ocean’s salinity is
about 3.5%. These lakes also have high concentrations
of those chaotropic salts, like magnesium chloride and calcium chloride, that make salty
solutions especially deadly. And to make matters worse, there’s the one-two
punch of extreme salinity and acidity. Scientists aren’t sure what, exactly, is
so deadly about that combination, but even with so many extremophiles in the world, no one has yet found any organism that can tolerate both high salinity and high acidity, which
is what you’ve got in these pools. Scientists may one day find some other wet
part of Earth too extreme to harbor life. Or maybe future tests will find something
that can survive these seemingly inhospitable pools. Either way, research like this helps scientists
understand what it takes for life as we know it to survive, which can be a good starting
point when it comes to looking for life beyond Earth. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow! And if you want to learn about one extreme
place on Earth that does host life, you might like this episode on tiny organisms that live
inside solid rock. You can check it out next! ♪♪♪

100 Comments found

User

Susse Kind

I'm pretty sure the dead sea also has no life. Or am I wrong?

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L ovecraft

Doesn't

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AGDinCA

But, is it even water at this point?

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yacchaga

Not even tardigrade?

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TheFoxandTheRabbit

I wonder if they can use such combos of that stuff to kill of certain ? Bacteria, fungus ? In a safe way tho as to only kill the bacteria, etc?

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ThePartyKnife

So what you're saying is that I should boil some saltwater, mix it with some lemon juice, and pour it over my enemies?

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Albino Pineapple

While watching this, I was thinking of the possible concoction of disinfectant I can make when I clean the sink.

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nariu 7times

Stefan's Chex Mix voice 😀 #Scishowtangents

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Lioness006

I wonder about tardigrades and the bacteria that live in the deep sea vents (black smokers)? Aren't they some of the most extreme life forms?

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Hariharan Natarajan

If a solution is both highly acidic and highly salty what is the pH of that solution??

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Alexander Kalman

Bacteria in like 5-10 yrs: hold my beer

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Ice Karma

My noob-level knowledge of chemistry wonders if hyperhalophiles and hyperacidophiles don't overlap because one has an excess of halogen ions, and the other has an excess of protons, and combine these in aqueous solution and you get acids inside your cells, and can't pump both out fast enough…

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Cookie MonstA

This sounds like just the right liquid to hose off anthrax sites with or any other nasty bio-weapon. I'm guessing that would be a bad idea though

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Star Star

What about The Dead Sea ?

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john smith

I wonder how long a tardigrade would last in this pool?

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Dan Ryan

Me thought you talk about fire water.

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My Name is JAFO

I was going to guess the hypersaline (and super cold) pools in Antarctica's ice-less valleys. But I would have guessed wrongly.

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howard delovitch

"Dead-Water" the taste of mass-extinction with out the usual necrotic aftertaste. !

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User

GeuwgleSuxBallz

I am quite skeptical of this claim.

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User

Ben

Isn't our ocean increasing in both salinity and acidity?

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Yo Momz

1:58 – Look, if you guys aren't gonna say how hot it is, then I have no reason to be watching.

We use Fahrenheit here.

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User

Electron Resonator

it's just how Earth shows to humans "here, I give you a glimpse of other planets,…or maybe me in the future"

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huldu

Sounds like internet in the real world.

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User

Andrew Mielke

I saw the thumbnail and assumed this was the Detroit River

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User

Jerry Rupprecht

Life: Aight, imma find a way

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James Stallworth

Aren't parts of Antarctica devoid of life? There's frozen water all over up there.

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User

Alexander Webb

Not even water bears dam

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User

BigMobe

Its it really water if its more than 50% something else?

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User

Mario Escobar

Put the water bear in there and it’ll live… maybe

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User

Azqq Zed

Water is wet

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User

CoriSparks

High salinity and high acidity.
When you absolutely, positively, have to kill every last motherfucker in the pool, accept no substitutes.

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User

Sky Warp

104F to 226.4F for people that have another reference frame. Sorry this channel believes being exclusionary is a good choice.

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Maxim Morshin

The real Dead Sea

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Holly Bodaki

Where I live, a bright blue lake a big run off from major coal factories has nothing living in it. There are signs for miles not to go there …

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John Gringo

Sounds like my crack…hydrogen bombs and protons.

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Carrie Wright

Very cool, didn't even know about that place

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User

Taylor Craig Newbold

I lived in Oakland in the 90s. Do I count as an extremophle?

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avi12

Why wasn't the Dead Sea mentioned?

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John Smith

Water you doin there?

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James Cook

so what lives in the dead sea?

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fccty1

So is it weird that I am now craving salt and vinegar chips

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Ulfric Stormcloak

My guess is this place is relatively new in the scheme of things so nothing got the chance to evolve into that condition

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User

Exton Jonas

stop punishing me for being an american and put those temperatures in Fahrenheit as well

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Karthikeyan Manoharan

May be the conditions there are too dynamic and unstable for life to sustain.

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chrisrus1965

Guys: we have to help them support life.

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User

Hyperstellar

I… I want to stick my feet in the water.

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AlEcyler

Giving this another view because hot dayum that was a quick reup

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Derrick Feng

Dallol Geothermal Field: exists
Micro organisms: It's free real e

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Amanda Troutman

So… I can't go swimming?

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User

H e x D e x

Super salty? reminds me of that game…

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יובל תבור

What about the ded sea

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Brian Corr

Chuck Norris has an unused summer home here, it is neither salty or acidic enough for him.

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Evi1M4chine

So early, the video wasn’t even public yet! 😀

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User

Evi1M4chine

The only wet places that don’t host life?
Uum, I know of such a place, but I signed a deal to never speak ill of Ms. Thatcher again. 😁

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User

Ravenwolf

I wonder, in other galaxies or even solar systems, if there is an earth like planet that harbors life like humans

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0mn1vore

Acidity and salinity. Got it. I'll be careful.

[Proceeds to eat a whole bag of salt&vinegar chips…]

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Jhube

U salty bro

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User

razzle dazzle

Tag urself im chaotropic

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rreeves0710

cue the over-exaggerated and silly hand gestures that were taught in a stupid college course.

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User

okast bloart

So they just tossing all the piles out there and see what makes out alive?

Well good thing pedo or necrophile are out of the question

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User

Beyonder

if no life can survive here then it has no chance in mars, europa and titan. Any water there would be extremely salty.

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Varad Mahashabde

I guess the heat destroys the proteins and the cell then would be .. in bad shape

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User

Yami

Yet…

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Alex Walker Smith

Watching this to distract myself from the fact that TFS just announced the cancellation of DBZA. Not working.

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User

Science Talk TV

How long could you live in that lake as a human swimming?

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Celina Alert

Am i crazy or why does his voice sound so different to me 😂

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Jojo97

So there are Bacteria even which are even more salty than I am

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1Energine1

Celsius? What country is this made in?
Pff

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Jah B

Crazzzzyyyy

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abhilash herakal

After seeing this I filtered water with 0.1 micron filter,and autoclaved it twice, exposed that water to Gamma radiation, 25kgray for 3 Cycles, and now iam pretty sure iam holding water in my hand devoid of all life forms

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Joseph Howard

I was tossed out of a bar for being too salty. I guess they couldn’t handle the saloon-ity!

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Joseph Pinkham

The drawstrings on your hoodie is casting a distracting shadow. It's the only thing I see. Haha

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T. R.

This feels wrong. I’m so used to hearing about how “even here, scientists have found life.” I half-expected that we’d find tiny carbon-coated microbes swimming around in magma. Apparently, salt and acid get the job done.

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Siva Kumar

Can tardigrade/water bear survive there?

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Anastazia and Alex

I tryd to watch this video wen it was private

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User

InstrucTube

Mmm… Hot Saltacid Soup, just like Mother used to make.

On an unrelated and totally innocent note, if you were to drop a dead body into this pool it would basically break down pretty quickly, yeah?

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Skela Tonne

this is misleading……

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Najwa Laylah

We must immediately try acclimating forms of life that can survive in slightly less extreme conditions to these pools until something makes it. 😉

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Lilac Lizard

50% sounds REALLY high! does salt even dissolve at that level? What's the percentage in a super saturated solution?

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HoshiSanada

This was pretty interesting.

Also, he sounds like John Ritter.

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OxyOwO

YET!

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Yora

Does this even still count as water?

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Logan Rich

Love scishow! 🙂

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Honey Bee86

"For one… It's Africa"

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Nathan Xaxson

No mention of the Dead Sea at all? I'm surprised, given its reputation and name.

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Rufus The Hunal Prophet

I'd like to go there. If I wouldn't die of course.

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Luc Willemssens

So we now know there's not life on Venus

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Pretisy

lol, that amount of Heat is nothing compared to MY CPU!!!! 4K 60FPS with only 95C
Theirs's nothing out there that can match my heat!

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Dennis RodriguezCole

put a Tardigrade in it

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Miral Calugcugan

Not even tardigrades?

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ProudOfBeingMetalheads

Maybe those are the only places we won't be seeing any Water Bear….at least for now

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Paul Dawson

Did the scientists ask the bacteria where they came from ? Were they carrying passports ?

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Courtney Adams

Stefan are you okay? Just look really upset this episode

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LilyMyLolita

Is it just me or does Stefan sound different?

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Make Racists Afraid Again

Something will someday evolve to live even in this volcanic crater.
Probably after we drive ourselves extinct. In the near future.

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DoctorX17

Deadly, but pretty. Like some girls I know

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Sci Volution

https://youtu.be/AFn9tXBsTYY

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Truth Troll

I'm American I don't care about Celsius.

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Sci Volution

https://youtu.be/KIx-fcchsN0

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IABI TV

Maybe all the waters on other exoplanets are just the Dallol geothermal field.

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