The microbiology of red brines

Aharon Oren*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The brines of natural salt lakes with total salt concentrations exceeding 30% are often colored red by dense communities of halophilic microorganisms. Such red brines are found in the north arm of Great Salt Lake, Utah, in the alkaline hypersaline lakes of the African Rift Valley, and in the crystallizer ponds of coastal and inland salterns where salt is produced by evaporation of seawater or some other source of saline water. Red blooms were also reported in the Dead Sea in the past. Different types of pigmented microorganisms may contribute to the coloration of the brines. The most important are the halophilic archaea of the class Halobacteria that contain bacterioruberin carotenoids as well as bacteriorhodopsin and other retinal pigments, β-carotene-rich species of the unicellular green algal genus Dunaliella and bacteria of the genus Salinibacter (class Rhodothermia) that contain the carotenoid salinixanthin and the retinal protein xanthorhodopsin. Densities of prokaryotes in red brines often exceed 2–3 × 107 cells/mL. I here review the information on the biota of the red brines, the interactions between the organisms present, as well as the possible roles of the red halophilic microorganisms in the salt production process and some applied aspects of carotenoids and retinal proteins produced by the different types of halophiles inhabiting the red brines.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationAdvances in Applied Microbiology
EditorsGeoffrey Michael Gadd, Sima Sariaslani
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
Number of pages54
ISBN (Print)9780128207093
StatePublished - 2020

Publication series

NameAdvances in Applied Microbiology
ISSN (Print)0065-2164

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Inc.


  • Dunaliella
  • Halobacteria
  • Halophilic
  • Hypersaline
  • Salinibacter
  • Salt lakes
  • Salterns


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