Cueva De Villa Luz: Ecology

music
ambience: cave, footsteps, water

If the rotten egg smell of the Hydrogen Sulfide gas doesn’t get to you, then maybe the bats, spiders or the dripping sulfuric acid will. Welcome to the Cueva de Villa Luz, a cave located in the Southeastern Mexican state of Tabasco. Although it’s interior is practically lethal to humans, the cave is home to a diverse and healthy ecosystem. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

“What we see in this cave is very similar to what other scientists have seen at the hot water vents at the bottom of the ocean. Where no light is getting to that depth of the ocean are these rather complex ecosystems growing.”

Louise Hose is a professor of Geology whose work is supported by the National Geographic Society. She’s been studying the ecology of the Cueva de Villa Luz, which is based on a bacteria feeds on sulphur.

“And so we have bacteria that can do a process similar to photosynthesis but instead of using sunlight they are using the energy released by the oxidation of sulphur and some other metals provided by water that comes up into the cave, and those bacteria are everywhere throughout the cave. We see them as slimes on the walls, we see them as filaments in the stream itself. Consuming those bacteria are the invertebrates. In particular, there are little flying insects called midges. The cave also has an abundance of spiders. They’re going around eating the other insects that live off of the bacteria. The fish eat the bacteria, but they also eat the midges.”

We’ll here why NASA is interested in the cave’s ecosystem in our next program.

Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation.

music

Cueva De Villa Luz: Ecology

If the rotten egg smell of the Hydrogen Sulfide gas doesn't get to you, then maybe the bats, spiders, or the dripping sulfuric acid will.
Air Date:04/30/2002
Scientist:
Transcript:


music
ambience: cave, footsteps, water

If the rotten egg smell of the Hydrogen Sulfide gas doesn't get to you, then maybe the bats, spiders or the dripping sulfuric acid will. Welcome to the Cueva de Villa Luz, a cave located in the Southeastern Mexican state of Tabasco. Although it's interior is practically lethal to humans, the cave is home to a diverse and healthy ecosystem. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

"What we see in this cave is very similar to what other scientists have seen at the hot water vents at the bottom of the ocean. Where no light is getting to that depth of the ocean are these rather complex ecosystems growing."

Louise Hose is a professor of Geology whose work is supported by the National Geographic Society. She's been studying the ecology of the Cueva de Villa Luz, which is based on a bacteria feeds on sulphur.

"And so we have bacteria that can do a process similar to photosynthesis but instead of using sunlight they are using the energy released by the oxidation of sulphur and some other metals provided by water that comes up into the cave, and those bacteria are everywhere throughout the cave. We see them as slimes on the walls, we see them as filaments in the stream itself. Consuming those bacteria are the invertebrates. In particular, there are little flying insects called midges. The cave also has an abundance of spiders. They're going around eating the other insects that live off of the bacteria. The fish eat the bacteria, but they also eat the midges."

We'll here why NASA is interested in the cave's ecosystem in our next program.

Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation.

music