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A Living Desert Underground - diverse communities of bacteria, fungi and archaea on the surface of Kartchner stalactites

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In the perpetual darkness of a limestone cave, UA researchers have discovered a surprisingly diverse ecosystem of microbes eking out a living from not much more than drip water, rock and air. The discovery not only expands our understanding of how microbes manage to colonize every niche on the planet but also could lead to applications ranging from environmental cleanup solutions to drug development.

Beyond the reaches of sunlight and seemingly devoid of life, the caves are in fact teeming with an unexpected diversity of microorganisms that rival microbial communities on the earth's surface, according to a new study led by University of Arizona researchers that has been published in the journal of the International Society for Microbial Ecology. The discovery not only expands our understanding of how microbes manage to colonize every niche on the planet but also could lead to applications ranging from environmental cleanup solutions to drug development.

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