MessageToEagle.com - Extensive and fascinating biological material is hidden in caves under the Nullarbor Plain, Australia.
Unusual aquatic microbial formations in endless flooded passages of cave systems in the
Nullarbor region of Australia have long been investigated by researchers using electron microscopy and DNA analysis.
Mysterious caves of Nullabor, Australia are located in a semiarid region but intersect the watertable at depths of
approximately 100 m below the surface.
Recently, in submerged areas of the caves divers discovered unusual ‘curtains’ of biological material – known as Nullarbor
cave slimes located deep in water-filled underground caves.
Nullarbor Cave, Australia
Researchers Sasha Tetu, Katy Breakwell, Liam Elbourne, Andrew Holmes, Michael Gillings and Ian Paulsen from Macquarie
University, are exploring how this alien ecosystem works. They published their findings this week in the journal of
the International Society for Microbial Ecology, showing that an unusual
combination of microbes thrive in the Weebubbie caves.
“Earlier studies on the community suggested that there was an unusual chemistry going on in the caves, but we didn’t
know how the microbes were making a living in the cave environment,” says the lead scientist Professor Ian Paulsen,
In order to find this ‘missing link’, the team of researchers made use of a range of new technologies, such next-generation
sequencing of environmental DNA and scanning electron microscopy to take an in-depth look at the composition of the Weebubbie
cave slime community. This approach detected a dominant group of organisms in the cave slimes, known as the Thaumarchaeota.
This community of microbes thrives in the total dark, independent of photosynthesis.
It is thought that the periodic inundations of the Nullarbor caves by the sea occurred a number of times in the geological
past and so researchers suggest that the Weebubbie Thaumarchaeota may have a marine origin.
Click on image to enlarge
Image credit: Steve Trewavas
“We know that the Nullarbor Plain’s karst system arose from the sea in the Middle Miocene period and so this may be a clue
as to where the Weebubbie Thaumarchaeota came from,” says Professor Paulsen
The research team says this analysis shows that the organisms make up the Weebubbie cave slime community make their living
in a very unusual way – by oxidizing ammonia in the salty cave water – and are completely independent of sunlight and
ecosystems on the surface.
“It just goes to show that life in the dark recesses of the planet comes in many strange forms, many of which are
still unknown,” says Professor Paulsen.
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A brief look into the future.
The year is 2029 and a very dangerous asteroid named Apophis is making its closest approach to Earth.
Humans are awaiting this moment with great anxiety as they will finally learn whether
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