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New Life-Forms Found at Bottom of Dead Sea

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Dozens of giant craters spewing fresh water and brimming with bacteria have been found at the otherwise barren bottom of the Dead Sea, new research shows.

In 2010 the first diving expedition to the springs revealed "a fantastic hot spot for life" in the lake, which lies on the border of Israel and Jordan (see map), said team member Danny Ionescu, a marine microbiologist for the Max Planck Institute in Germany.

The team found several craters—each about 33 feet (10 meters) wide and 43 feet (13 meters) deep—at 100-foot (30-meter) depths on the lake's bottom. The craters were covered with films and sometimes surprisingly thick mats of new bacterial species, Ionescu said.

These tiny communities live near thin plumes of fresh water that shoot from undersea springs, whose presence has long been suspected based on peculiar ripples on the Dead Sea's surface.

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