By diving underground, in a vast maze of karst networks on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, scientists have discovered a startling microbial diversity that was previously unsuspected.
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If the Yucatan Peninsula is known for containing the Chicxulub crater, which witnessed the asteroid impact that hastened the disappearance of the dinosaurs, this region of Mexico is also famous for its karst network, punctuated by the famous cenotes, submerged gaps that open deep in this valley. Limestone landscape. Underground there are a large number of submerged galleries forming a vast and complex labyrinth of which only a small part has been mapped. This stunning environment, immersed in darkness, is not devoid of life.
Over 900 different microbial communities
The sampling campaign has already made it possible to identify the enormous diversity of organisms that live there. The researchers identified 917 different families of microbes, each with characteristics linked to its environment. Because this environment presents surprisingly variable conditions throughout the galleries, whether in terms of water salinity, temperature, acidity or light supply. Hence, each microbial community appears to belong to a very specific place, and each plays a very specific role in this complex ecosystem. Thus, scientists shed light on the interactions between these different communities, as well as their impact on the chemistry of the water itself. The results of this study were published in the journal Applied and environmental microbiology It reveals the need to protect this unique and vulnerable environment.