A new species found in Utah’s Great Salt Lake changes knowledge of ecosystem

Mar 12, 2024, 9:00 PM | Updated: May 15, 2024, 12:26 pm

worm FILE: Microbialites found during a University of Utah sampling trip at the Great Salt Lake on ...

FILE: Microbialites found during a University of Utah sampling trip at the Great Salt Lake on July 22, 2021. Nematodes, otherwise known as roundworms, were discovered at the lake, according to a new study (Julie Jung)

(Julie Jung)

Editor’s note: This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that partners news, education and media organizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake.

SALT LAKE CITY — Michael Werner was one of the many Utah residents who fled to the state’s sprawling parks and public lands in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic led to shutdowns of gathering places all over the state, leaving very few activities available outside of home.

He had just started his job as an assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Utah and decided to take up hiking after the pandemic closed the university’s lab for months on end. That led him to Antelope Island, where he stumbled across educational signage teaching visitors that brine shrimp and brine flies are the only species living in the Great Salt Lake because of its unique saline ecosystem.

Being an expert on nematodes, he wondered if that was true.

Nematodes, otherwise known as roundworms, are one of the world’s most abundant animal classifications. There are more than 250,000 known nematode species, including in the deep ocean, arid climates and anything and everything in between.

“Nematodes are a nearly ubiquitous group of organisms found in all sorts of environments. Some of those environments are very extreme,” he said, recalling that day almost four years ago. “So I thought, ‘Maybe nobody has taken a close look?'”

His question sparked conversations with lake experts and new lake studies. After a few years of research, he and other University of Utah researchers confirmed his hunch. Nematodes live in Great Salt Lake, along with brine shrimp and brine flies, and have a role in the lake’s ecosystem that is not yet fully understood.

Their findings, published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, also note that the Great Salt Lake is now the saltiest body of water known to contain the species.

Please read Carter Williams’s complete story at KSL.com.

Other stories from the Great Salt Lake Collaborative:

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


Search and rescue crews braced Friday for a potentially busy Memorial Day weekend as they urged peo...

Andrew Adams, KSL TV

Rescuers prepare for what could be a busy Memorial Day weekend

Search and rescue crews braced Friday for a potentially busy Memorial Day weekend as they urged people to prepare for the elements.

16 hours ago

The KSL Greenhouse show host Taun Beddes shares why lawns might turn brown and how to treat those l...

Taun Beddes, The KSL Greenhouse Show

Taun Beddes: Reasons why your lawn is suddenly turning brown

The KSL Greenhouse show host Taun Beddes shares why some lawns turn brown and how to treat the problem if that happens to you.

18 hours ago

The Department of Public Safety helicopter was called to support Lone Peak avalanche rescue operati...

Esme Sanchez Estevez

Update: Lone Peak Canyon avalanche search and rescue information

With possible exposure to possible avalanches, rescuers worked hard on complicated mission. Here are more in detail information of the research and rescue.

1 day ago

A lake seen in Utah with beachgoers ahead of the time to learn about Memorial Day safety....

Kennedy Camarena

How to stay safe on the water during Memorial Day weekend

This weekend is considered to be the unofficial start of summer and boating season. When's a better time to learn about water safety?

2 days ago

Multi-directional sprinkler system (canva)...

Mitchell von Puttkammer

Water conservation in your Utah garden

Water conservation in a Utah garden can include installing smart sprinkler systems. And the state can help defray the cost!

2 days ago

Raindrops on a window with traffic lights in front of the car, memorial day weather will be chilly ...

Allessandra Harris Gurr

Rain, cold temperatures in central and northern Utah this weekend

Thunderstorms, rain, high elevation snow, and temperatures around freezing are expected Memorial Day weekend in northern and central Utah.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.


Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

A new species found in Utah’s Great Salt Lake changes knowledge of ecosystem