In the salt pools of Dallol, in Afar, northern Ethiopia, life ceases to exist because of the most extreme barriers to survival anywhere on Earth. The colorful ponds are not only hot and highly acidic, but they are located above a massive dome of salt, pushing salinity levels to 10 times or higher of those of the ocean.
As scientist were able to prove in recent study, even extremophiles, bacteria adapted to harsh conditions, have trouble surviving here. The research also confirmed that there are some places within Dallol where life simply cannot survive. Temperatures reaching above 200 degrees Fahrenheit, pH levels that dip below zero and hypersaline water create an almost unearthly trifecta that even the hardiest microbes could not endure.
The team of researchers from France and Spain took samples from the ponds and surrounding areas over the course of two years and applied multiple tests to look for signs of life. While some areas at Dallol saw a diversity of extremophile microbes, there were a few places where signs of life were entirely absent, as reported in Nature Ecology & Evolution.
Previous studies that indicated some microbes might live in these ponds were likely contaminated by bacteria on either the instruments or the scientists themselves said the new report.
Despite their hostile conditions, the ponds themselves crease a an earthly scenes of greens, yellows, reds and blues. Their color changes constantly as new materials bubble upwards from the ground. It can change by the day as materials circulate, creating an ever-changing colorful landscape that is beautiful but deadly. Unlike the pools of Yellowstone whose colors come from microbes, the Dallol ponds are tinted by the presence of various kinds of iron.