PICS: These lakes are tickled pink Down Under
Have you ever wondered what it would look like to fill an entire lake with strawberry milkshake? Well these pink lakes dotted around Australia make that dream a reality thanks to some handy bacteria.
Pink lakes are found dotted along the western and southern regions of Australia as well as in some other select locations.
These salty strawberry milk-lakes will have you feeling like you've stepped into a disney fairytale.
What makes them pink?
The reason for the hues of the lake varies between algae or bacteria along with salt density. The main contributing element was found to be bacteria.
According to Australian Geographic, a team of researchers from the eXtreme Microbiome Project (XMP) have identified a few probable suspects as to what causes the disney-esque hue.
Ken McGrath, a researcher for the XMP, collected genetic information from Lake Hillier sediment and water samples in 2015 to try and uncover the reasoning behind its pink colour and what lives in it.
Since the lakes beds are comprised of solid salt, not many organisms can survive, however, extremophiles like the ones found in Lake Hillier tend to thrive in this environment. The goal of McGrath's research was to identify the various extremophiles living in the lake that could play a role in producing its remarkable colour.
An analysis of the material revealed that around 10 species of salt-loving bacteria, archaea and several species of Dunaliella algae were chilling it out in the lake. Nearly all these organisms are pink, red or salmon in colour - and are probable culprits for the lake's striking shade.
It was found that 33% of the millions of DNA sequencing reads generated during the study from the lake water samples matched a single species of bacterium: Salinibacter ruber.
"The most abundant DNA that we recovered from the lake came from a bacterium called Salinibacter ruber, a salt-loving halophile which also produces red pigments," said Ken McGrath.
For quite a while, many assumed that micro algae was responsible for Lake Hillier's pink colour. The findings from XMP, however, reveal the pink colour most probably arises from a bacterium instead.
"Dunaliella alga is present but it's not the dominant organism by any means," McGrath added. He concluded that their genetic sequencing confirms that it is the bacterium that is the real and dominant reason that the lake is pink.
The bacterium produces a pigment, called bacterioruberin, which helps the organism harvest light for energy. While the pigments produced by algae are confined to the chloroplasts, bacterioruberin is spread across the entire bacterial cell.
This means that when looking at these lakes, you are mostly seeing the pink colour of the bacteria spread out.
Another potential reason contender is a reaction between the salt and the sodium bicarbonate that is found in the water.
Pink lakes in Australia:
Are they dangerous?
No. Pink lakes might be salty, but they're not harmful to humans.
According to Lake Hillier's website, the water of the lake is otherwise clear and it causes no harm to the human skin and the Dunaliella salina alga is completely harmless as well.
The site adds that swimming in the Lake Hillier's water is safe and fun but impossible to do for normal tourists as the lake can’t be visited.
So if you aren't averse to extra salty water, all seems to be well in the pink swell.
Similar lakes around the world: