James MacGuffin, famous archaeologist goes on one of many expeditions to Egypt. He crosses the Dead Sea from Jordan, and about halfway through, he is amazed at what he finds. A small group of large fish are swimming through the water! He quickly scans the internet via a hotspot on his ship and comes to the conclusion that he has discovered a new species.

What characteristics would a fish have to evolve to survive in the extremely salinity of the Dead Sea? Would he be able to prove he discovered a new species or would the world discredit him?

  • $\begingroup$ The first part of your question is fine but the second seems un-necessary and out of scope (any answer is guess work)...either the species exists or it does not...credit/proof would be in the finding and studying of the species. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Apr 29, 2015 at 18:33
  • $\begingroup$ Unless he caught one(or took really good pictures), nobody would believe him even if he was in the Red Sea. $\endgroup$
    – Resonating
    Apr 29, 2015 at 19:49

2 Answers 2


The macroscopic life forms would barely be macroscopic. This is because they would only have bacteria and each other to eat. They would need to have skin that was very resistant to losing water (via osmotic pressure) to the hypertonic solution there. Most likely they wouldn't be fish.

The world would discredit James MacGuffin because:

  1. The Dead Sea doesn't touch Saudi Arabia. If he was crossing "from Arabia" into Egypt, he was more likely crossing the Gulf of Aqaba/Red Sea and/or the Gulf of Suez. If he was actually driving from Saudi Arabia, through Jordan, and then tried to cross into Israel via the Dead Sea he would be shot and killed by the Israeli military. They have serious border defences. So, no one would believe he was doing what he said he was doing.
  2. He didn't collect any samples. If he really was on the Dead Sea and saw fish then the most likely conclusion is someone released some fish that will soon be dead. This further discredits his already unbelievable story.
  3. He's an archaeologist. There is no reason to believe he knows anything about taxonomy or biology. He can't even stand behind his credentials on this one.
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I would say the latter part of bullet 1 is what he was doing..... He might have a research permit or something of the likes. Israel hasn't cut off access to the Dead Sea to the whole world. I must have been thinking (geographically speaking, anyway) of the Gulf of Suez. $\endgroup$
    – Jax
    Apr 29, 2015 at 19:39
  • $\begingroup$ @DJMethaneMan Israel isn't on good terms with anyone else in the region. It's the middle-East, not synonymous with a holding-hands-good-neighbors image. You said he was doing research in Egypt, his research permit wouldn't mean a thing to Israel. He could visit the Dead Sea from Jordan or Israel, but he can't cross the border, they don't even have regular boat traffic. $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    Apr 29, 2015 at 19:46



Eptatretus springeri, the Gulf hagfish,[3] is the only known species with the ability to enter brine pools, or pools of extremely high salt content, unharmed. These pools resemble lakes on the ocean floor. They exist in both the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean Sea. The high salt content, approximately 200 ppt compared to 35 ppt for standard seawater, creates a buoyant surface which renders oceanic submersibles unable to descend into the pool. Often, other species can be seen floating lifelessly on the surface.

The Dead Sea is comparable in salinity to the brine seeps.

One of the saltiest lakes in the world, the Dead Sea, has a salinity of 280 parts per thousand (ppt), about eight times saltier than average seawater (35 ppt)!


Your Dead Sea fish are hagfish, scavenging and scrounging and making mucus in their ineffable hagfish way. How did they get to the Dead Sea? Maybe they have always been there.


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