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Lake Natron- One of the Unique Lakes in the World

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Ankita loves to explore various aspects of science and is passionate about writing on topics of her interest.


What makes Lake Natron so different?

This lake is situated in northern Tanzania, in the region of Arusha. It is a salt or soda lake; that means water can never flow out of this lake and the only way of escaping out is through evaporation. As water evaporates slowly over time, huge residues of salt and minerals are left behind. Lake Natron is extremely alkaline with a pH of 10.5 similar to that of ammonia. Sometimes the pH level may be as high as 12 and temperatures may reach up to 60°C (or 140°F). This high alkalinity is because of the chemical ‘natron’ which is a mixture of baking soda and sodium carbonate; hence the name of the lake. Thus the water is extremely caustic and cause damage to the eyes and skin of animals that are not capable of tolerating it.

Deposits of high concentration of sodium carbonate, which was also used for mummification in ancient times, acts as a preservative for the bodies of animals when they remain in contact with the waters for too long. Thus animals often turn to stones when they live in the water for longer period of time. To warn animals from coming nearer to the lake, the waters of the lake possess a bright red colour.


The Reddish Appearance of the Lake and How Animals are Preserved Forever

Halophiles, which means salt-loving, are extremophiles that produces reddish pigments. These microorganisms are responsible for providing reddish hue to the waters of the lake. However this appearance change with time.

Lake Natron is located in an arid region and hence rainfall is scarce. The water flows into the lake from small rivers and hot springs. Volcanic ashes from the Great Rift Valley are collected in its basin. This makes it inappropriate for most of the organisms to thrive in it.

The natron that is left behind after evaporation acts as an antibacterial agent which sucks all the moisture from a dead body. Thus a body is preserved against all the microorganisms which can feed on it. Therefore all we can see are calcified statues of animals which died in the waters of Lake Natron.


Few of the Animals that can Thrive in this Lake

Despite having highly alkaline water, Lake Natron has an ecosystem consisting of freshwater wetlands, salt marshes, flamingos and other wetland birds. The alkaline tilapia, an endemic species of fish, lives along the edges of the hot spring inlets. 75 percent of Lesser Flamingos are hatched in this lake and these flamingos feed on the tilapia and algae. The spectacular ‘pink parade’ bring many visitors from across the world so as to witness the wonderful group of the flamingos.

Due to its unique biodiversity, Lake Natron has its place in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. It has been also recognised as an important eco-region by the World Wildlife Fund.


More Interesting Facts about Lake Natron

  • The salt in this lake is not the widely extracted salt from the seawater but magmatic limestone, that has been forged deep in the Earth. These pour out in lava flows and blast into the air 10 miles high to become ash clouds.
  • Just south of Lake Natron, a volcano million years old, Ol Doinyo Lengai, is located which is known for its unique existence. This is because other volcanoes in this planet spew silicates unlike this volcano which give out natrocarbonatite. For this reason, the animals in the lake look as if they have been dropped in a bucket of cement, which is because of the ashy runoff along with the rainwater accumulating in the lake.
  • The bedrock surrounding this lake was formed in the Pleistocene period and is composed of trachyte lava.
  • The reason flamingos choose this lake as their breeding place is because the harsh climate would keep away predators. Evaporite islands which are formed seasonally are the most preferred places of these birds.
  • Any animal that comes in contact with the water of this lake does not turn into stone immediately as many reports have claimed. The process is thought to be gradual.
  • Nick Brandt’s exquisite photographs of some of the calcified animals in a lifelike position were considered to be phantasmagorical and iconic photos.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Ankita B (author) on August 13, 2020:

Thank you so much Vandna for your comment. Appreciated as always.

thoughtsprocess from Navsari (India) on August 12, 2020:

Interesting information Ankita.

Ankita B (author) on July 26, 2020:

I appreciate your kind comments Shreya. Thank you very much.

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Shreya MK on July 25, 2020:

Interesting facts.

So informative Ms. Ankita :)

Ankita B (author) on July 24, 2020:

Thank you very much Eman for your kind comments. Appreciated as always.

Eman Abdallah Kamel from Egypt on July 24, 2020:

A very informative and interesting article. It is really unique lake. Thank you, Ankita for sharing all this information about lake Natron.

Ankita B (author) on July 21, 2020:

Thank you so much Chitrangada for your comments. I am glad you enjoyed reading this article.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on July 21, 2020:

Indeed a beautiful and unique lake. Thank you for introducing me to Lake Natron. I enjoyed going through the information, which you have provided.

Thanks for sharing.

Ankita B (author) on July 20, 2020:

Thank you Umesh Chandra for your kind comments.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on July 20, 2020:

Very interesting. Well presented.

Ankita B (author) on July 18, 2020:

Thank you Chatra for your lovely comments. Much appreciated.

CHATRA RAM from BARMER INDIA on July 18, 2020:

Really nice to hear about flamingos.

Nice work

Ankita B (author) on July 18, 2020:

Thank you for the encouraging words Danny. Happy reading!

Danny from India on July 18, 2020:

Most welcome. Waiting for more articles from your side. The topics you write are very interesting and gripping.

Ankita B (author) on July 18, 2020:

Thank you very much Danny for your kind comments. I am glad you enjoyed reading this article.

Danny from India on July 18, 2020:

I love the reddish hue on the surface. Thanks for the information Ankita.

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