The Kartchner caverns in southeast Arizona are famous for their spectacular limestone rock formations, created by groundwater seeping and dissolving bedrock compounds over thousands of years. For all their beauty, the caverns are extremely harsh environments with no sunlight and precious little water and air, and have shown very few signs of life – until recently.
Amid the quiet and the dark, an entire ecosystem of hardy microbes lives and thrives, according to a new study published in the journal of the International Society for Microbial Ecology.
“We discovered all the major players that make up a typical ecosystem,” stated Julie Neilson, University of Arizona associate research scientist and co-author of the study, in a release. “From producers to consumers, they’re all there, just not visible to the naked eye.”