A shockingly pink lake in Western Australia owes its color to a mix of microbes living there, New Scientist reports. The lake, called Lake Hillier, is also extremely salty, some 8 times saltier than the ocean.
Researchers from the Extreme Microbiome Project collected samples from Lake Hillier for sequencing analysis. As they report in a preprint posted to BioRxiv, the XMP team led by the University of Vermont's Scott Tighe found a number of extremophiles within those lake water samples, including members of the Salinibacter genus. Members of that genus, they note, produce pigments, which likely contribute to the lake's color, possibly alongside the algae Dunaliella salina, which they also found there. Tighe tells New Scientist that these carotenoids could help protect against the extreme saltiness.
The XMP researchers additionally uncovered potentially novel species within their lake samples that need to be further investigated.
New Scientist notes that XMP researchers are also studying other extreme sites, such as a gas crater in Turkmenistan, dry valleys in Antarctica, a brine lake under the ocean near western Greenland, and more.