Cueva De Villa Luz: Extreme Cave

music
ambience: water, footsteps in cave

There’s a cave in southeastern Mexico which is teeming with life – insects, bats, and a stream inside that’s chock full of fish. But this entire thriving ecosystem is based on bacteria which live on sulphur. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Of course it’s pitch black inside the Cueva de Villa Luz, and instead of plants which depend on sunlight for their prime energy source, there are bacteria here, which feed on the abundant supply of Sulphur. The bacteria oxidize the sulphur and in the process produces sulphuric acid.

“When the first explorers went into the cave they recognized that there were these very unusual white, what appeared to be statlactites, deposites that were hanging down from the ceiling.”

Louise Hose is a professor of Geology at Westminster College, in Missouri, who’s part of a team that’s been studying the extreme ecology of Cueva de Villa Luz.

“When they examined them more carefully they found they were not made of stone they were instead kind of rubbery. And they were dripping sulphuric acid. They reminded them of big globs of snot, and so they named them ‘snot-tites’, or snot that looks like a stalactite.”

eww. It may not be pretty, but the cave has attracted some high-level attention.

“Groups like NASA have had an interest in life in caves because Mars is a very sulphur rich planet. It does not have photosynthesis occuring on the surface today. So if life is going on it is probablyis some sort of microorganism that is making a living through the oxidation of chemicals like sulphur.”

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

music

Cueva De Villa Luz: Extreme Cave

There is a cave in southeastern Mexico whose thriving ecosystem is based on bacteria which live on sulfur.
Air Date:05/01/2002
Scientist:
Transcript:


music
ambience: water, footsteps in cave

There's a cave in southeastern Mexico which is teeming with life - insects, bats, and a stream inside that's chock full of fish. But this entire thriving ecosystem is based on bacteria which live on sulphur. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Of course it's pitch black inside the Cueva de Villa Luz, and instead of plants which depend on sunlight for their prime energy source, there are bacteria here, which feed on the abundant supply of Sulphur. The bacteria oxidize the sulphur and in the process produces sulphuric acid.

"When the first explorers went into the cave they recognized that there were these very unusual white, what appeared to be statlactites, deposites that were hanging down from the ceiling."

Louise Hose is a professor of Geology at Westminster College, in Missouri, who's part of a team that's been studying the extreme ecology of Cueva de Villa Luz.

"When they examined them more carefully they found they were not made of stone they were instead kind of rubbery. And they were dripping sulphuric acid. They reminded them of big globs of snot, and so they named them 'snot-tites', or snot that looks like a stalactite."

eww. It may not be pretty, but the cave has attracted some high-level attention.

"Groups like NASA have had an interest in life in caves because Mars is a very sulphur rich planet. It does not have photosynthesis occuring on the surface today. So if life is going on it is probablyis some sort of microorganism that is making a living through the oxidation of chemicals like sulphur."

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

music