The Snotty and the Stringy: Energy for Subsurface Life in Caves

  • Daniel S. JonesEmail author
  • Jennifer L. Macalady
Part of the Advances in Environmental Microbiology book series (AEM, volume 1)


Caves are subterranean environments that support life largely in the absence of light. Because caves are completely or almost completely removed from the photosynthetic productivity of the sunlit realm, most cave ecosystems are supported either by inputs of organic matter from the surface or by in situ sources of inorganic chemical energy. The majority of caves have very low energy and nutrient availability and thus, generally low biological activity and productivity. However, those caves that have abundant inorganic chemical energy or high organic carbon influx represent subterranean oases that support robust microbial communities and diverse animal life. In this chapter, we review the energy resources available to cave microbiota and describe several examples that illustrate the vast diversity of subsurface habits contained within caves.


Ferromanganese Crust Lava Tube Cave Environment Acidithiobacillus Thiooxidans Cave Stream 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to extend gratitude to everyone who has assisted and supported our cave microbiology research, especially to Alessandro Montanari for continued logistical support and the use of facilities at the Osservatorio Geologico di Coldigioco and to S. Carnevali, S. Cerioni, S. Galdenzi, M. Mainiero, S. Mariani, and the Gruppo Speleologico C.A.I. di Fabriano for technical support and scientific discussions in Italy. We also thank L. Hose, L. Rosales-Lagarde, I. Schaperdoth, S. Dattagupta, E. Lyon, T. Jones, K. Dawson, and R. McCauley for assistance in the field and lab. Our work has been supported by generous funding from the National Science Foundation, the NASA Astrobiology Institute, the Cave Conservancy Foundation, and the Marche Regional Government and the Marche Speleologic Federation. Special thanks to C. Hurst for organizing and editing this volume.


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeosciencesPenn State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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