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© José María LOPEZ-GARCIA/ESE/CNRS Photothèque
The Danakil salt plain in Ethiopia. The Danakil is an ancient branch of the Red Sea that has dried out and is now filled with a layer of salt of more than 2 km thick. In January 2016, researchers undertook a scientific expedition in this region located on the rift that traverses the Afar region and one of only two places on Earth where the oceanic crust emerges on the surface. It is a multi-extreme environment, which combines very high temperatures (up to 115 °C), very low pH (values are often negative), high saline saturation (30-50%) and the presence of toxic gas. It is a perfect site to study the limits of microbial life and could therefore provide an excellent analogy with primitive Earth environments.