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Posted by on Dec 27, 2016 in Tell Me Why |

Are Pink Lakes Just an Optical Illusion?

Are Pink Lakes Just an Optical Illusion?

No, pink lakes are not just an optical illusion, if you ever see a pink lake in person; you may think that your eyes are playing a trick on you. If you fill a plastic bottle with water from the lake, you’ll see that the water in your bottle has the same pink color.

They’re natural and can be found in many countries around the world. Some of the most famous pink lakes around the world include the following: Ukraine’s Lake Koyashskoe, Tanzania’s Lake Natron, Azerbaijan’s Masazir Lake, and Senegal’s Lake Retba. Australia boasts multiple pink lakes, such as Lake Hillier, Pink Lake, and Hutt Lagoon. Even the northern half of Utah’s Great Salt Lake usually exhibits a color that’s somewhere between pink and a deep red.

If you were to compare all of these lakes, you would find one interesting factor in common: they’re salt lakes. Scientists believe that the high salinity of these lakes helps to explain their unique coloring.

Although the exact cause of each particular lake’s coloring hasn’t been definitively determined, scientists do have a couple of theories that they believe explain the pink color of these lakes. The key appears to be that the high salinity of these lakes only allows a very few select microbes to grow and thrive in such harsh conditions.

For example, in many pink lakes, the only type of microbe that can survive and thrive is a particular type of halophile micro-algae known as Dunaliella salina. With enough light and heat and a salinity level well above that of sea water, these microbes produce and accumulate carotenoids, such as beta carotene. The color of these carotenoids gives these algae — and the water they populate — their characteristic pink color.

Other scientists have found that pink lakes might also get their color from tiny microbes known as halobacteria. Halobacteria get their rosy pigmentation from a protein, called bacteriorhodopsin, which they use to absorb energy from the Sun (the way plants use green chlorophyll for photosynthesis).

Although it might look weird or unsafe, it’s perfectly fine to swim in a pink lake. You don’t want to drink the water, though. Since the water is so salty, it doesn’t taste very good if you accidentally swallow it!

They look as though someone has tipped in a load of pink dye while no one was looking. But in fact these pink lakes are a natural phenomenon and not only draw visitors from far and wide but also provide livelihoods to local people.

From the vibrant Lake Hillier, on Middle Island in the Recherche Archipelago, in Western Australia, to a protected pink nature reserve bordering a Spanish city, something considered unpleasant – algae – looks so beautiful.

In Senegal, Lake Retba, in the Cap Vert peninsula of the country, has such a high concentration of salt – 40 per cent – that is harvested by local people. The lake is dotted with salt collectors working up to seven hours a day, using long shovels to pile boats high with the mineral, To protect their skin from the water they rub their skin with Shea butter.

Western Australia’s Lake Hillier is perhaps more striking since it is surrounded by lush vegetation. The lake, on Middle Island, the largest of the islands and islets that make up the Recherche Archipelago, spans only about 600 meters wide but its rose pink color is unmistakable.

Canada’s Dusty Rose Lake, in British Columbia is pink due to the particulate in the glacial melt waters feeding it. The surrounding rock is purple/pink in color; the water feeding the lake is said to have a lavender hue.

Perhaps the most unusually located pink lakes are in south west Spain, where two large salt-water lakes sit adjacent to the city of Torrevieja. The Salinas de Torrevieja (meaning Salt Pans of Torrevieja) turn pink when sunlight falls on the algae-rich waters. The lakes are now protected national parks and are a haven for migratory birds, divers flora and fauna.

Content for this question contributed by Christine Cardamone, resident of N. Tonawanda, Niagara County, New York, USA