Amazing microbial diversity discovered in a huge underground labyrinth in Mexico – Futura

By diving underground in the vast labyrinth of karst networks of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, scientists discovered an astonishing microbial diversity that was previously unsuspected.

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While the Yucatan Peninsula is known for hosting the Chicxulub Crater, witness to the asteroid impact that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs, this region of Mexico is also known for its karst network punctuated by the famous cenotes, flooded chasms that go deep open into limestone landscape. Underground there are a multitude of sunken galleries, forming a vast and complex labyrinth, only a small part of which has been mapped. However, this amazing environment, immersed in darkness, is not devoid of life.

More than 900 different microbial communities

A sampling campaign has actually made it possible to establish the impressive diversity of organisms living there. The researchers identified 917 different families of microbes, each with peculiarities associated with their habitat. This environment offers surprisingly different conditions in the galleries, be it in terms of the salinity of the water, the temperature, the acidity or the supply of light. Each microbial community therefore appears to belong to a very specific niche and each plays a very specific role in this complex ecosystem. The scientists have thus shed light on the existing interactions between these different communities, but also on their influence on the chemistry of the water itself. The results of this study were published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology and highlight the need to protect this unique and delicate environment.