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Ojos de Mar is a group of 3–6 small water bodies close to the town of Tolar Grande in Argentina and an important tourist attraction there. They are inhabited by extremophile microorganisms of interest to biotechnology; stromatolites have also been found there.

Ojos de Mar
Photo of a blue pond with a mountain rising behind
Ojos de Mar. Aracar mountain rises in the background.
Coordinates24°37′25″S 67°22′16″W / 24.6237°S 67.3711°W / -24.6237; -67.3711[1]Coordinates: 24°37′25″S 67°22′16″W / 24.6237°S 67.3711°W / -24.6237; -67.3711[1]

The lakesEdit

The Ojos de Mar are six[2] or three small 3–8-metre (9.8–26.2 ft) deep ponds[3][4] characterized by a blue[5]-turquoise colour in a white salty desert landscape under a bright blue sky. Their water is extremely salty and alkaline[6] and their colour changes depending on the angle of the sun[7] impacting the clear waters. The water bodies are filled by water coming from surrounding rocks that evaporates in the Ojos de Mar. The name may refer to the colour and saltiness of the water that resembles the sea; it is possible that the water bodies were encountered by the Spanish on their way through the Andes.[8] Water temperatures of 14 °C (57 °F) have been measured.[3]

The Ojos de Mar are one of the main tourist attractions of Tolar Grande[9] and are of scientific interest due to the stromatoliths that grow there;[10] stromatoliths are the oldest traces of life on the planet[11] and at least 3.4 billion years ago helped give rise to the oxygen in the atmosphere;[12] this 2009 discovery of stromatoliths at Ojos de Mar has gained media attention[2][4] and in 2011 it led to the Ojos de Mar along with Laguna Socompa where similar stromatoliths occur to be declared a protected area by the government of the Salta Province.[13][14]

They lie at elevations of 3,510 metres (11,520 ft)[15] close to the town of Tolar Grande (380 kilometres (240 mi) west from the city of Salta;[9] the Tren a las Nubes tourist train passes through Tolar Grande[16]) in the Salta Province of Argentina,[6] and can be reached from Tolar Grande through a road[7] and a parking lot. The environment of the waterbodies is fragile and thus visitors are discouraged from approaching too closely, also because the ground is unstable.[4] Other tourist attractions of Tolar Grande are the volcanoes Llullaillaco and Socompa and the Cono de Arita.[7]

Biotechnological significanceEdit

The Ojos de Mar display a rich assembly of microorganisms including extremophiles in their waters which have been analyzed with bioinformatics methods.[17] In general, the Argentine Puna in South America features a number of high altitude lakes between 3,000 and 6,000 metres (9,800 and 19,700 ft) elevation which are characterized by extreme environmental conditions: Extremely high insolation by the sun, low temperatures, large temperature changes between day and night, extremely high salinity of their waters owing to high evaporation rates and accumulation of toxic elements such as arsenic.[18][19] Because of this, plants and animals are rare in these areas and extremophile microorganisms which can tolerate the extreme conditions make up much of the biota.[20] These in turn could be used to obtain enzymes that could be useful for industrial processes, such as ultraviolet radiation-resistant or -exploiting enzymes like photolyases and antioxidants that protect cells from oxidative damage; these compounds and proteins could be used in medicine and the cosmetic industry.[21]



  1. ^ Google (3 November 2018). "Ojos del Mar" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
  2. ^ a b "En la Puna, un ecosistema único en el mundo". Clarín (in Spanish). 4 September 2009. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
  3. ^ a b Maldonado, Marcos J.; Albarracín, Virginia H.; Lara, José A.; Ferrero, Marcela A.; Farías, María E. (17 April 2018). "Culture-dependent and -independent methods reveal dominance of halophilic Euryarchaeota in high-altitude Andean lakes". Aquatic Microbial Ecology. 81 (2): 176. doi:10.3354/ame01863. ISSN 0948-3055.
  4. ^ a b c "10 lugares de Argentina que muy pocos conocen". La Nación (in Spanish). 6 October 2017. Archived from the original on 7 February 2018. Retrieved 3 November 2018. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  5. ^ "Turismo Naturaleza, paisajes imperdibles". Turismo Salta (in Spanish). Gobierno de la Provincia de Salta. 2018. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
  6. ^ a b Albarracín & Farias 2012, p. 37.
  7. ^ a b c "La inmensidad de la Puna habita en Tolar Grande". La Gaceta Salta (in Spanish). 12 August 2014. Archived from the original on 16 August 2014. Retrieved 3 November 2018. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  8. ^ Ibarra, Andreina (11 October 2017). "Los 'Ojos del Mar' en la Puna Argentina". Diario Porteño (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 9 December 2017. Retrieved 3 November 2018. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  9. ^ a b Cáceres, Carlos R.; Troncoso, Claudia A.; Vanevic, Pablo M. (2013). "Nuevas modalidades turísticas en Argentina. Experie ncias de Turismo Comunitario en la provincia de Salta" (PDF). CONDET (in Spanish). Universidad Nacional de Tierra del Fuego. p. 10. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
  10. ^ Cáceres, Carlos; Vanevic, Pablo; Troncoso, Claudia (2012). Destinos clásicos y nuevas propuestas en la diversificación turística de la provincia de Salta (PDF) (in Spanish). 6° Coloquio Geográfico sobre América latina 'Las nuevas configuraciones territoriales latinoamericanas desde una perspectiva geográfica', 14 al 17 de marzo, Paraná. Trabajo publicado en Actas del evento. ISBN 978-987-1808-18-2. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
  11. ^ Bosak, T.; Greene, S. E.; Newman, D. K. (June 2007). "A likely role for anoxygenic photosynthetic microbes in the formation of ancient stromatolites". Geobiology. 5 (2): 119. doi:10.1111/j.1472-4669.2007.00104.x. ISSN 1472-4677. PMC 2947360.
  12. ^ Bosak, Tanja; Liang, Biqing; Sim, Min Sub; Petroff, Alexander P. (7 July 2009). "Morphological record of oxygenic photosynthesis in conical stromatolites". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 106 (27): 10939. doi:10.1073/pnas.0900885106. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 2708726.
  13. ^ "La Dra. María Eugenia Farias, invitada especial de los seminarios Fronteras" (in Spanish). Instituto de Biología Molecular y Celular de Rosario. 26 June 2017. Retrieved 4 November 2018.
  14. ^ "El Gobierno de la Provincia creó áreas protegidas en las lagunas de Socompa y Tolar Grande" (in Spanish). Gobierno de la Provincia de Salta. 18 March 2011. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
  15. ^ Rasuk et al. 2017, p. 867.
  16. ^ Gil, Soledad (4 April 2018). "El tren-bus a las Nubes". La Nacíon (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 16 August 2018. Retrieved 3 November 2018. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  17. ^ Moreno, J.R.; Albarracín, V.H.; Farias, M.E. (2011). "Bacterias Extremófilas en Tapetes Microbianos Litificados en Ojos de Mar de Tolar Grande, Salta" (PDF) (in Spanish). Catamarca: Terceras jornadas universitarias de ciencias exactas y naturales, Jucen, Biología. pp. 1–2.
  18. ^ Albarracín & Farias 2012, p. 34.
  19. ^ Rasuk et al. 2017, p. 866.
  20. ^ Albarracín & Farias 2012, p. 35.
  21. ^ Albarracín & Farias 2012, pp. 36–37.


External linksEdit