Yellowstone has some of the most-breathtaking visual anomalies a person could feast their eyes on when it comes to the thermal springs on the grounds of the famed national park. However, the greens, yellows, and other colors that are often seen that change the light and color of the entire bodies of water as they sit – were once the ordinary color of water. These bodies of water like the Morning Glory Pool, as well as the Grand Prismatic Spring, or the Sapphire Pool all at one time took on typical water colors. Likely, a dark blue color that would complement the massive depths of the springs that fed them.

Research though has shown that science wasn’t the only contributing factor to making these bodies of water the strange colors that they are today. In fact, the study revealed that human’s impacts – like trash, and rocks that were tossed into the body of water – likely were the real cause of the change in color. “As result of coins, trash, and rocks thrown into the pool over time, the vent has become partially blocked, leading to a lower temperature and altered color pattern,” said the authors of the paper.

Ultimately, scientists believe that this study shows just what they have thought for some time. The microbes that have collected in the pools of water – were likely transferred into the pools of water from the rocks, coins, and other debris that found their way into the springs and pools. The warm water, and hot temperatures ultimately made these microbes thrive in a way that they would not ordinarily thrive – causing the colors to ultimately change color.

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“It is now understood that these mats are comprised of complex communities of microbes, primarily thermophilic cyanobacteria and other thermophilic bacteria and archaea,” according to the researchers. What this translates to is varying levels and degrees of color in the bodies of water depending on the specific conditions within these families of microbes.

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The scientists point to shape, depth, and temperature of each individual body of water as main drivers of determining how the microbes will impact the bodies of water. As scientists do more research on the subject, and dive into understanding the level of impact humans had on the bodies of water a better understanding of the bodies and their unique colorings.