• Fungi from the Art Gallery were studied by cultivation and molecular analyses
  • Fungal diversity was clearly dominated by Penicillium and Aspergillus species
  • Abundant fungal growth associated with guanophilic species was detected on sediments
  • Scarce fungi were detected on rock surface of painted walls
  • The biocides OIT and BAC were effective inhibiting the in vitro growth of dominant fungi


Magura Cave, north-western Bulgaria, possesses valuable rock-art paintings made with bat guano and dated from the period between the Eneolithic and Bronze Ages. Since 2008, the Art Gallery is closed to the general public in order to protect the paintings from vandalism, microclimatic changes caused by visitors and artificial illumination, and the consequent growth of fungi and phototrophs. Nevertheless, some tourist visits are allowed under the supervision of cave managers. This study provides the first scientific report on cultivable fungal assemblages dwelling different substrata in the Art Gallery. A total of 78 strains, belonging to 37 OTUs (Ascomycota 81%, Zygomycota 13%, Basidiomycota 5%), were isolated in the study. This fungal diversity was clearly dominated by Penicillium (50% of strains) and Aspergillus (13%). The most relevant visible fungal colonies were detected in sediments rich in bat guano, where, besides Penicillium, other guanophilic fungi such as Mucor, Mortierella, Trichosporon and Trichoderma were dominant. Conversely, scarce fungi were detected on rock surface of painted walls. Based on the biocide susceptibility assay, octylisothiazolinone (OIT) and benzalkonium chloride (BAC) were effective inhibiting the in vitro growth of dominant fungal species in Magura Cave, when applied at concentrations ranged from 100 to 1,000 mg/L. These data provide a valuable knowledge about Magura fungi, and exemplify a type of preliminary test that may be conducted before planning any biocide treatment. However, considering the irreversible effects of biocides on the ecological balance in caves, and the low fungal contamination in painted walls of Magura Cave, there is no reason to use conventional biocides in this cave. Further studies, monitoring microbial communities and microclimatic parameters, should be conducted to improve the knowledge on microbial ecology in Magura Cave and possible human impacts, as well as to allow the early detection of potential microbial outbreaks.



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