Scientists find surprising methane-based ecosystem in underwater Yucatan caves

December 12, 2017 by  
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Underwater caves have been described as one of Earth’s final unexplored frontiers. An international team recently delved into the flooded caves of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico and found methane and dissolved organic carbon sustain the food web in these caves, with an ecosystem similar to that of deep ocean cold seeps. Mayan lore described the underwater caves in Mexico as a fantastical underworld. While the caves aren’t mythical, they did hold surprises for the 10 scientists who recently conducted what the United States Geological Survey (USGS) described as “the most detailed ecological study ever for a coastal cave ecosystem that is always underwater.” These researchers found methane and the bacteria that eat it serve as the linchpin for the ecosystem. Study lead author David Brankovits of Texas A&M University at Galveston said in a statement, “Finding that methane and other forms of mostly invisible dissolved organic matter are the foundation of the food web in these caves explains why cave-adapted animals are able to thrive in the water column in a habitat without visible evidence of food.” Related: Hundreds of massive seafloor craters are leaking methane They researched the Ox Bel Ha cave network, a subterranean estuary complex about the same size as Galveston Bay. Naturally-forming methane in these caves migrates downward, instead of upward as it normally would when formed in soils, so bacteria and microbes can feed on the methane. Prior studies posited that vegetation and detritus comprised the majority of organic material for microbe food in the caves, according to USGS, so the scientists were surprised to discover just how important methane is to the caves’ food web. There’s little surface debris to serve as food deep in the caves, so microbes depend on methane as well as other dissolved organics that filter down from the caves’ ceiling. One cave-adapted shrimp species receives around 21 percent of its nutrition via methane. The journal Nature Communications published the research online in late November. Scientists from institutions in the United States, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Mexico contributed to the work. Via the United States Geological Survey Images via © HP Hartmann and the United States Geological Survey

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Scientists find surprising methane-based ecosystem in underwater Yucatan caves

14,000-year-old animal paintings discovered in underground Spanish cave

June 14, 2016 by  
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Archaeologist Deigo Garate made the amazing find nearly 1,000 feet underground in the northern Spanish cave . No one had excavated the area that deeply yet, even though Garate has spent ten years searching Basque Country caves and Atxurra has been known for over 80 years. He told The Local , “It is an exceptional find, the equivalent of discovering a lost Picasso.” Related: 5.5-million-year-old cave holds prehistoric secrets few people have ever seen The paintings were found in excellent condition, with charcoal and flint tools nearby. One depiction features a bison being hunted and pierced with over twenty spears – the most detailed, speared bison depiction in all of Europe. The Atxurra discovery could also be hold the record for most animal figures in all of Basque Country. Garate says, “Without doubt it is the most important discovery of my career.” Via Hyperallergenic Images via Bizkaia Provincial Council

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14,000-year-old animal paintings discovered in underground Spanish cave

Permaculture is Not About Returning to the Caves: Bill Wilson Inteview (Video)

December 25, 2009 by  
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Image credit: Peak Moment It’s funny how often you hear people, even within the environmental movement, deriding the back-to-the-land phenomenon. Transition Towns have been dismissed by some as a rebranding of self-sufficient hippydom, for example, and my post on volunteerism and permaculture had some commenters sneering at voluntary serfdom. And yet, as Peak Moment TV’s inte..

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Permaculture is Not About Returning to the Caves: Bill Wilson Inteview (Video)

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