UIS Commission on Karst Hydrogeology and Speleogenesis
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Original article
Reitschuler, C.; Schwarzenauer, T., Lins, P.; Wagner, A.O.; Spötl, C.; Illmer, P.
Zur mikrobiologie von bergmilch
Microbiology of moonmilk
2012
63
-3
3
17
Moonmilk is a plastic mineral formation, which can be found inside cave systems all around the world. These deposits mainly consist of microscopic calcite crystals and show a very high water content. However, the association of microorganisms is remarkable, which seem to play a crucial role in the formation process. The present study applies a combination of culture-based methods and DNA analysis and is to our knowledge the first attempt to investigate this phenomenon in an Alpine cave, in Austria. Central questions include (i) the origin of the occurring microorganisms, (ii) their supply with energy and nutrients, (iii) their role in course of the formation of the deposits, and (iv) their structure and organization. The investigations within the Hundalm Eis- und Tropfsteinhöhle in Tyrol revealed that a complex, heterotroph-dominated, psychrophilic microbial com munity, con - sisting of archaea, bacteria and fungi is associated with moonmilk, with partly high microbial abundances. Via living cultivation microorganisms could be proved in all 29 samples, with individual (bacterial) numbers of up to one million per ml moonmilk. The remarkable number of pigmented species could be an indication for the origin from a light-exposed surficial habitat. Molecular biological methods proved that even more organisms inhabit this habitat as was suggested after the culture-based investigations. One million archaea per ml were detected in some samples. The detection of different organic acids – partially in appreciable amounts – is an indication for biological activity and could also give a hint to the energy and nutrient inputin this system.
Reitschuler, C.; Schwarzenauer, T., Lins, P.; Wagner, A.O.; Spötl, C.; Illmer, P., 2012, Zur mikrobiologie von bergmilch , Die Hoehle , 63 , 3 - 17