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Dead Sea is not quite dead yet: Scientists

Last updated: 02 October, 2011
Washington, Oct 2 (PTI) 14:32 IST

The 'Dead Sea' is not quite dead yet, as freshwater springs are still feeding the drying water body, scientists say.

A team of researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel and the Max Planck Institute of Marine Microbiology in Germany used highly skilled divers to observe the springs and undersea life.

The scientists knew the springs and the organisms that grew around them were there, but they has never been able to observe them directly.

"While researchers have known for decades that the 'Dead' Sea was a misnomer, the rich variety of life as evidenced in the vicinity of the springs was unexpected," Danny Ionescu, of Max Planck Institute, was quoted as saying by Discovery News.

Ionescu said: "While there are no fish present, carpets of micro-organisms that cover large seafloor areas contain considerable richness of species.

"The micro-organisms in the Dead Sea water mainly belong to the domain Archaea and they number around 1,000 to 10,000 per millilitre, much lower than regular sea water."

"Never before have microbial mats/biofilms been found in the Dead Sea and not much is known about sediment microorganisms in the Dead Sea," Ionescu added.

The freshwater springs studied by the researchers keep the Dead Sea from disappearing even faster. The springs burst forth from craters that are up to 45 feet in diameter and 60 feet deep, the researchers said.

"By developing a measurement system for these springs, we will be able to determine more accurately how much water is actually entering the Dead Sea," said Jonathan Laronne of Ben Guiron University.

The team is now planning to return to the bottom of the Dead Sea later this month.

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