Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Life in the calcium chloride environment of Don Juan Pond, Antarctica


DON JUAN POND, which contains saturated calcium chloride brine, is in the south fork of the dry Wright Valley of Antarctica at latitude 77°33′S and longitude 167°10′E, and has been controversial almost since its discovery in 1961. Meyer et al.1,2 reported a sparse microflora of four species of heterotrophic bacteria and a yeast. Cameron, Horowitz and colleagues3,4, using the Antarctic dry valleys as the best available natural simulation of Mars, reported that many areas were virtually sterile and, at most, limited to sparse bacterial populations. Field work5–10 has revealed a more abundant and varied microflora of yeasts, blue-green algae, fungi and bacteria, especially in the bottoms of frozen freshwater lakes. However, reports point to an extreme dry valley–exposed rock South-Polar biome consisting predominantly of heterotrophic forms, mainly prokaryotic with occasional fungal associates. If this is correct Don Juan Pond must, like the dry valleys generally, consist only of converter–consumer populations lacking extensive capability for continuous carbon reduction. Cameron has emphasised the ecological restrictions on the activity and distribution of algae in the dry valleys and mentions no algal or other autotrophic forms in his discussion of Don Juan Pond, even though thin organic layers were found 2 m below the 15–20 cm of standing water11. However, in the course of a mercury sampling programme during the austral summer of 1978–79 we observed an extensive, irregular pellicle or mat-like structure 2–5 mm thick but extending 500–600 m2 over much of the western part of the Don Juan Pond salt flats.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. Meyer, G. H. Polar Rec. 11, 317 (1962).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Meyer, G. H., Morrow, B., Wyss, O., Berg, T. E. & Littlepage, J. L. Science 138, 110 (1962).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Cameron, R. E., Honour, R. C. & Morelli, F. A. in Extreme Environments Mechanisms of Microbial Adaptation (ed. Heinrich, M. R.), 57 (Academic, New York, 1976).

    Google Scholar 

  4. Horowitz, N. H., Cameron, R. E. & Hubbard, J. S. Science 176, 242 (1972).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Friedmann, E. I. Antarctic J. 12, 26 (1977).

    Google Scholar 

  6. Friedmann, E. I. & Ocampo, R. Science 193, 1247 (1976).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Holm-Hansen, O. Phycologia 4, 42 (1964).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Vishniac, W. V. & Mainzer, S. E. Antarctic J. 7, 88 (1972).

    Google Scholar 

  9. Drouet, F., Polar Rec. 11, 320 (1962).

    Google Scholar 

  10. Uydess, I. L. & Vishniac, W. V. in Extreme Environments, Mechanisms of Microbial Adaptations (ed. Heinrich, M. R.), 29 (Academic, New York, 1976).

    Google Scholar 

  11. Mudrey, M. G. Jr, Torii, T. & Harris, H. Dry Valley Drilling Project (DVDP) Bulletin, 85 (August, 1975).

  12. Karl, D. M. & LaRock, P. A. J. Fish. Res. Bd Can. 32, 599 (1975).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Casselman, W. G. Histochemical Techniques (Methuen, London, 1959).

    Google Scholar 

  14. Glick, D. Quantitative Chemical Techniques of Histo- and Cytochemistry (Interscience, New York, 1963).

    Google Scholar 

  15. Hawk, P. B. Physiological Chemistry, 4th edn. (Blakiston, Philadelphia, 1914).

    Google Scholar 

  16. Pearse, A. G. Histochemistry, (Churchill, London, 1968).

    Google Scholar 

  17. Siegel, S. M. in The General and Comparative Biology of Terrestrial Organisms under Experimental Stress Conditions, Semiannual Report Contract No. NASw-767, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1 (1965).

    Google Scholar 

  18. Siegel, S. M., Speitel, T. & Stoecker, R. Cryobiology 6, 160 (1969).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Siegel, S. M. Univ. Hawaii Botanical Science Paper No. 31, 1 (1973).

  20. Handbook of Environmental Control 3 Water Supply and Treatment (ed. Bond, R. & Straub, C.) 345–388 (CRC Press, Cleveland, 1973).

  21. Biochemist's Handbook (ed. Long, C.) 1029–1032 (Van Nostrand, Princeton, 1961).

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

SIEGEL, B., MCMURTY, G., SIEGEL, S. et al. Life in the calcium chloride environment of Don Juan Pond, Antarctica. Nature 280, 828–829 (1979).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing