Other Life Forms

Cave Microbes
Microbial growth found in Timpanogos Cave

(Jon Jasper)

Microbes are the most numerous and diverse form of life on the planet. Many of these life forms could contain new antibiotics as well as tell us about the evolution of life on our planet. Microbes play an important part in acid production which breaks down limestone caves over time. Introducing microbes from outside the cave environment can have a lasting impact on these organisms and destroy valuable information.

A survey of microbial organisms in the Timpanogos Cave System is being performed at the Crandall Lab at Brigham Young University to understand their role in the cave's ecology. Being on the bottom of the food chain, microbial communities are the first to respond to ecologic threats such as introduced contaminates and chemical changes. The microbe studies will produce a method of early detection to respond to ecosystem threats before irrepairable harm occurs.

Samples were collected from both "pristine" and "disturbed" sites throughout the cave. The pristine sites are locations with very little visitation or human disturbance. The disturbed sites are locations near the tourist trail that are introduced to outside debris. By comparing the results from the pristine and disturbed sites, we hope to learn how the microbial communities are affected by visitation and trail development so we can restore these environments to a their more pristine conditions.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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