A Chemoautotrophically Based Cave Ecosystem

Serban M. Sarbu
Thomas C. Kane
Brian k. Kinkle

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Microbial mats discovered in a ground-water ecosystem in southern Romania contain chemoautotrophic bacteria that fix inorganic carbon, using hydrogen sulfide as an energy source. Analysis of stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes showed that this chemoautotrophic production is the food base for 48 species of cave-adapted terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates, 33 of which are endemic to this ecosystem. This is the only cave ecosystem known to be supported by in situ autotrophic production, and it contains the only terrestrial community known to be chemoautotrophically based.