By Brian Switek
Look at the Great Salt Lake and you might think of the vast body of water as lifeless. That’s far from the truth, of course. Not only is the Great Salt Lake home to an incredible number of brine shrimp - fodder for migrating birds looking to refuel - it also boasts microscopic life that’s adapted to the harsh conditions of the super-salty water. They’re called halophiles, and our Natural History Museum of Utah exhibit staff has just come up with a perfect recipe to help them thrive in our exhibit about the local lake.
There’s no single biological category for halophiles. “Most of them are bacteria,” Museum exhibit services supervisor Will Black says, “but they could also be eukaryotes,” or organisms made up of a cell or cells containing their DNA inside a nucleus. Regardless of their classification, though, Black notes that what makes halophiles distinct is right there in their name - halophile is Greek for “salt-loving.”