A place on Earth with no life

Earth is known as the only habitable planet in the universe but a recent discovery about a place with no life on the planet might come as shock!

'Non-attendance of microbial life'

It would be impossible to imagine a spot on Earth where there is an absence of life, but European researchers have confirmed the non-attendance of microbial life in hot, saline, hyperacid ponds in the Dallol geothermal field in Ethiopia.

The infernal landscape of Dallol, located in the Ethiopian depression of Danakil, extends over a volcanic crater full of salt, where toxic gases emanate and water boils in the midst of intense hydrothermal activity.


One of the most torrid environments on Earth

It is one of the most torrid environments on Earth. 

There, daily temperatures in winter can exceed 45° C and there are abundant hypersaline and hyperacid pools, with pH values that are even negative.


'Multi-extreme environment'

A recent study which was published earlier this year, pointed out that certain microorganisms can develop in this multi-extreme environment (simultaneously very hot, saline and acid), which has led its authors to present this place as an example of the limits that life can support, and even to propose it as a terrestrial analogue of early Mars.

But these fresh findings present a contrary fact and were published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.


Dallol mineral precipitates

Biologist Lopez of French National Centre for Scientific Research, alerted that some silica-rich Dallol mineral precipitates may look like microbial cells under a microscope, so what is seen must be analysed well, "In other studies, apart from the possible contamination of samples with archaea from adjacent lands, these mineral particles may have been interpreted as fossilised cells, when in reality they form spontaneously in the brines even though there is no life."


Sterile even though they contain liquid water

According to the authors, this work "helps to circumscribe the limits of habitability and demands caution when interpreting morphological bio-signatures on Earth and beyond," that is, one should not rely on the apparently cellular or 'biological' aspect of a structure, because it could have an abiotic origin.

"In addition, our study presents evidence that there are places on the Earth's surface, such as the Dallol pools, which are sterile even though they contain liquid water," said Garcia.

This means that the presence of liquid water on a planet, which is often used as a habitability criterion, does not directly imply that it has life.