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Scientists Have Found a Place on Earth Which Has Water, But Absolutely No Life

However, the study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, has now disputed the claims.

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Updated:November 6, 2019, 3:38 PM IST
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Scientists Have Found a Place on Earth Which Has Water, But Absolutely No Life
Image credits: Smithsonian Institution - Global Volcanism Program: Worldwide Holocene Volcano and Eruption Information.

From an island filled with venomous pipers (Ilha da Queimada Grande) to a valley in California that is so hot that people have a hard time living there (Death Valley), there are quite a few extreme uninhabitable places on Earth.

However, one normally does not associate water with a place being inhospitable. Turns out, we are wrong.

Now, according to a study originally published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, and cited by Science Alert, researchers say that despite recent claims, the Dallol geothermal springs in Ethiopia's Danakil Depression do not support life.

Considered to be the hottest inhabited place on Earth, the Dallol landscape is replete with a number of hyperacidic - hypersaline lakes which give off vibrant hues of greens, yellows and shades of other colours.

While they may look pretty from an artistic perspective they release a number of toxic, gas-saturated brine due to a volcano hidden underneath the surface.

The fascinating milieu has long fascinated scientists, with one research expedition in 2016 (the result of which was published recently), setting out to find if anything might dwell in those arid conditions.

According to their report, they found evidence of 'ultra-small microorganisms' among the acidic springs.

However, the study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, has now disputed the claims.

Tweeting about the same in June, study author and microbiologist Jodie Belilla from Université Paris-Sud in France wrote that they are refuting the claim of life there.

In their findings, which were finally published last week, the team used a range of means to investigate a broad range of samples taken from four places in the toxic area over the course of three field expeditions between 2016 and 2018.

While the study authors did find evidence of archaea-based life as well as bacterial gene sequences, they claim most of it could be deceptive, the report said.

Accordingly, the authors explained in their paper that evidence strongly points towards the fact naturally occurring microbial life is not found in the Dallol ecosystem.

The researchers explained that they found two physiochemical barriers that stopped life from existing in the presence of liquid water on Earth, the report said.

One of the barriers was the magnesium-dominated brines which caused cells to break down and the other is the presence of toxic hyperacid-hypersaline water combination.

However, the scientists caution that the fact that their research has not revealed life form does not mean that organisms more complex than microfossils are not present there. However, until more intricate studies reveal otherwise, the team believes Dallol's most inhospitable areas are not fit for living.

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