The Salt Bacteria

Commercial salt evaporation ponds and other shallow areas in bodies of water with high salt content often have a unique appearance from above. They can be strikingly red due to the presence of a distinctive group of archaebacteria. These are the salt bacteria, whose metabolism enables them to thrive under conditions of extreme salinity that instantly kills other living cells. The bacteria carry on a simple form of photosynthesis with the aid of a membrane-bound red pigment called bacterial rhodopsin. The concentration of salt inside the cells is much lower than in their surroundings, but their metabolism is so closely tied to their environment that the bacteria die if placed in waters with lower salt concentrations (Fig. 17.14).

Figure 17.14 The north end of Utah's Lake Bonneville, as seen from the air. The water has a very high salt content. The reddish areas are due to a red pigment produced by salt bacteria. The pigment, called bacterial rhodopsin, is involved in a form of photosynthesis.

Bacterial Rhodopsin

Figure 17.14 The north end of Utah's Lake Bonneville, as seen from the air. The water has a very high salt content. The reddish areas are due to a red pigment produced by salt bacteria. The pigment, called bacterial rhodopsin, is involved in a form of photosynthesis.

Chapter 17

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