Deep hypersaline anoxic basins in the Mediterranean Sea are a legacy of dissolution of ancient subterranean salt deposits from the Miocene period. Our study revealed that these hypersaline basins are not biogeochemical dead ends, but support in situ sulfate reduction, methanogenesis, and heterotrophic activity. A wide diversity of prokaryotes was observed, including a new, abundant, deeply branching order within the Euryarchaeota. Furthermore, we demonstrated the presence of a unique, metabolically active microbial community in the Discovery basin, which is one of the most extreme terrestrial saline environments known, as it is almost saturated with MgCl2 (5 M).
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