Mono Lake

Mono Lake, California

It is hard for life to survive here, so the microbes have adapted to the environment in surprising ways.


Mono Lake lies in the Long Valley Caldera where active volcanism occurs in and around the lake. The climatic and hydrologic changes in the Mono Lake Basin show that the lake is surrounded by cold and relatively dry weather. It also indicates shifts in the wind circulation pattern around the lake. The spatial and temporal variations near the lake change the shapes of the dunes around the area. There is active volcanism in and around the lake.

Mono Lake an alkaline (acidic) and hyper saline (salty) lake. Water​ ​drains​ ​into​ ​Mono​ ​Lake​ ​from​ ​the​ ​surrounding​ ​mountains,​ ​but doesn´t drain out. This makes it so that the only way water leaves the lake is by evaporation. As​ ​water​ ​evaporates,​ ​it​ ​leaves​ ​behind​ ​salt​ ​and​ ​impurities,​ ​including​ ​arsenic,​ ​that then​ ​become​ ​concentrated,​ ​making​ ​the​ ​water​ ​poisonous. Limestone towers called tufa towers formed here. Because of the unique setup at Mono Lake, stratification occurs.

Microbes in Mono Lake

Lots of single-celled organisms exist in Mono Lake. Because of the extreme conditions, there are bacteria who can breathe arsenic. They use arsenic in the same way we use oxygen, using is to break down food and release energy. The microbes can oxidize Arsenic (III) into Arsenic (V) ions with the help of sunlight. This process strips away the electrons, which are then used as the energetic push needed to create ATP (adenosine triphosphate).

Due to the high salinity of Mono lake the microbes have to be able to change the functions of their body due to the surrounding conditions. "Since there is a high concentration of salt in the lake, the microbes would become Hypertonic and the cell would be Plasmolysed. This is because the the amount of salt(concentration) on the outside of the cell is larger than the amount of salt on the inside of the cell. Since only water can pass through the semipermeable membrane the salt solution would also be higher concentrated on the outside of the cell.”(Hoffman M.).

However in this situation the plasmolysed cell would die because the salt solution would shrivel up the cell. But the Ectothiorhodospira-like purple bacteria or Oscillatoria-like cyanobacteria are bacteria that live on the outskirts of the lake, are cells that do not become Plasmolysed (T.R. Kulp, 2008). “Halophilic organisms can generate a substance called glycerol which counterbalance the osmotic stress. Glycerol is used as an osmolyte by algae, yeasts, fungi, and Artemia”(More Tough Choices).

Brine Shrimp

The only life that like here besides microbes are brine shrimp, Artemia monica, and brine fly (fly larvae). Mono Lake is also a critical nesting habitat for birds.

Mono Lake is a very salty and acidic lake. The microbes/bacteria have adapted to be able to survive in these conditions. Such as oxidizing Arsenic, and changing the liquid concentration that enters the cell.


Created with images by docoverachiever - "Mono Lake sunrise" • kla4067 - "Mono Lake, CA" • vkurland - "IMG_1215.jpg" • dougvk - "Mono Lake Sunrise" • Holzwerk - "Mono Lake Wide" • dhilung - "Mono Lake Sunrise"

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