Ultra-small #microorganisms in the #polyextreme conditions of the Dallol #volcano, Northern Afar, #Ethiopia (Sci Rep., abstract)

[Source: Scientific Reports, full page: (LINK). Abstract, edited.]

Article | OPEN | Published: 27 May 2019

Ultra-small microorganisms in the polyextreme conditions of the Dallol volcano, Northern Afar, Ethiopia

Felipe Gómez, Barbara Cavalazzi, Nuria Rodríguez, Ricardo Amils, Gian Gabriele Ori, Karen Olsson-Francis, Cristina Escudero, Jose M. Martínez & Hagos Miruts

Scientific Reports 9, Article number: 7907 (2019)



The Dallol geothermal area in the northern part of the Danakil Depression (up to 124–155 meter below sea level) is deemed one of the most extreme environments on Earth. The area is notable for being part of the Afar Depression, an incipient seafloor-spreading center located at the triple junction, between Nubian, Somali and Arabian plates, and for hosting environments at the very edge of natural physical-chemical extremities. The northern part of the Danakil Depression is dominated by the Assale salt plain (an accumulation of marine evaporite deposits) and hosts the Dallol volcano. Here, the interaction between the evaporitic deposit and the volcanisms have created the unique Dallol hot springs, which are highly acidic (pH ~ 0) and saline (saturation) with maximum temperatures ranging between 90 and 109 °C. Here we report for the first time evidence of life existing with these hot springs using a combination of morphological and molecular analyses. Ultra-small structures are shown to be entombed within mineral deposits, which are identified as members of the Order Nanohaloarchaea. The results from this study suggest the microorganisms can survive, and potential live, within this extreme environment, which has implications for understanding the limits of habitability on Earth and on (early) Mars.

Keywords: Extremophiles; Ethiopia; Astrobiology; Nanohaloarchaea.


Published by

Giuseppe Michieli

I am an Italian blogger, active since 2005 with main focus on emerging infectious diseases such as avian influenza, SARS, antibiotics resistance, and many other global Health issues. Other fields of interest are: climate change, global warming, geological and biological sciences. My activity consists mainly in collection and analysis of news, public services updates, confronting sources and making decision about what are the 'signals' of an impending crisis (an outbreak, for example). When a signal is detected, I follow traces during the entire course of an event. I started in 2005 my blog ''A TIME'S MEMORY'', now with more than 40,000 posts and 3 millions of web interactions. Subsequently I added an Italian Language blog, then discontinued because of very low traffic and interest. I contributed for seven years to a public forum (FluTrackers.com) in the midst of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014, I left the site to continue alone my data tracking job.