, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 77-89

On the red coloration of saltern crystallizer ponds

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To assess, respectively, the contribution of red bacteria of theHalobacterium-Haloferax-Haloarcula group and of the β-carotene-rich green algaDunaliella salina to the red colour of saltern crystallizer ponds, we studied the optical properties of the brines of NaCl-saturated saltern ponds in Eilat, Israel, and quantified the pigments present in their biota. The absorption spectrum of the brines, as measured using the opal glass method to reduce the interference by scattering, or using an integrating sphere, nearly corresponded to thein vivo absorption spectrum of bacterioruberin-containing red archaeobacteria. However, extracts of the microbial community in organic solvents were dominated by β-carotene, a pigment occurring in high concentrations in theDunaliella cells present, and bacterioruberin contributed only between 13 and 28 per cent of the total visible light absorption by the extracts. The apparent discrepancy between these results can be explained by the very small in vivo optical cross-section of β-carotene, which is densely packed in globules inside theD. salina cells.