HONOLULU (KHON2) — The shocking color of a pond on Maui gained worldwide attention and theories were thrown around but the most prevalent theory may not, in fact, be the cause.

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Researchers at UH Manoa have said that their preliminary findings point to a bacteria as the cause of the shocking pink color in Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge, not algae.

“The early findings have led the experts to suggest that halophilic (thriving in salt conditions) prokaryotes, also known as archaea and bacteria, were likely the cause of the brightly colored water,” UH said in a news release.

UH researcher, Marek Kirs, said he has no knowledge of something like this happening in Hawaii before.

“According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the sand plug between the pond and the ocean washed away during the wet season,” Kirs said. “This has not happened at least since 2018. I believe that evaporation, combined with limited freshwater input, has increased the salinity (to twice the salinity of the ocean water). It could happen in similar situations.”

Kirs and another UH researcher, Stuart Donachie, are working to identify the type of halophilic prokaryotes. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with the State to identify the cause and a course of action to implement.

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The USFWS reminds the public to stay away from the water and keep their pets away from the water. They also advise to not eat any fish from the pond.