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Originally published March 6 2014

There is a type of algae that actually lives in snow and causes the phenomenon known as 'watermelon snow'

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) In arctic and alpine regions around the world, people hiking through certain patches of snow may notice that they are leaving behind pinkish or reddish footprints, and their boots and pants may even get stained bright red.

The color, combined with a strong scent similar to that of watermelon, has led to this phenomenon being called "watermelon snow." Watermelon snow is especially common in the heights of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California.

This unique phenomenon is actually caused by microscopic algae that live in ice. In addition to the chlorophyll that allows them to generate energy from sunlight, these "snow algae" (60 species have been documented so far) also contain bright pigments known as carotenoids, the same compounds that give the yellow, orange and red color to carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and other brightly colored vegetables.

Researchers believe that these carotenoids help protect snow algae from the intense solar radiation found in alpine and polar regions. Snow algae also seem to be high in antioxidant flavonoids, which protect them from radiation-induced free radicals.


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