Life in the World’s Most Caustic Lake

Lake Natron, located in Tanzania, is said by NASA to be the world’s most caustic body of water. Fed by mineral rich hotsprings, constant evaporation concentrates salts, leaving water that has a pH of 9 - 10.5 (almost the pH of household ammonia!).

Despite the hostility of the habitat, the high salt levels and pH are ideal environments for halophiles, microscopic organisms that are adapted to salt. Cyanobacteria and spirulina, which are responsible for the red colour of the lake, photosynthesise and provide energy for more complex organisms to feed on.

The Lake is the only regular breeding place for 2.5 million Lesser Flamingos (Phoenicopterus minor) which feed on the spirulina in the lake. The birds take advantage of the deterrent waters and plentiful amounts of food provided in an otherwise harsh environment.

The Alkaline Tilapia fish (Alcolapia sp.) also live in the waters, inhabiting the niches at the edges of hot spring inlets. They are well adapted to the high temperatures (up to 110°F or 43°C) and pH of the lake. The fish excrete urea, as the usual ammonia is hard to diffuse in the environment. They can also gulp atmospheric air to compensate for the hypoxic waters.

Images: NASA, public domain; Robbie Veldwijk on Flickr; Michael K Oliver via Wikimedia Commons

  1. agent-orange-12 reblogged this from ichthyologist
  2. satanicpizzaparty reblogged this from rhamphotheca
  3. espritfollet reblogged this from ichthyologist
  4. chrryblssmninja reblogged this from ichthyologist
  5. unicornnna reblogged this from terra-mater
  6. polymethodic reblogged this from ajora
  7. jryanm reblogged this from thescienceofreality
  8. ajora reblogged this from thescienceofreality
  9. octopus-tangela reblogged this from thescienceofreality
  10. sabr90 reblogged this from thescienceofreality
  11. limitlesscorrosion reblogged this from terra-mater
  12. rottenkiwi reblogged this from femmeviva
  13. thekidwiththename reblogged this from ricrodrigo
  14. ricrodrigo reblogged this from excessbrainsiphon
  15. laikas-owner reblogged this from terra-mater
  16. bushy-haired-know-it-all reblogged this from chilope
  17. mrneverclever reblogged this from thescienceofreality
  18. georgemorewell reblogged this from thescienceofreality
  19. excessbrainsiphon reblogged this from thescienceofreality
  20. cassie-ology reblogged this from thescienceofreality
  21. terra-mater reblogged this from thescienceofreality
  22. femmeviva reblogged this from thescienceofreality
  23. numantinecitizen reblogged this from thescienceofreality
  24. the-electric-boogaloo reblogged this from thescienceofreality
  25. eieiohdamn reblogged this from thescienceofreality
  26. extra-d-terrestrial reblogged this from thescienceofreality
  27. chilope reblogged this from thescienceofreality