Sunday, 31 August 2014

Goodbye, Textbook Explanations: Microbes Can Create Dripstones

Caves can be interesting places. Image courtesy of Dave Bunnell, Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

Recently, Science Daily published a report on dripstones that challenges previous views:

Scientists have found that microscopic organisms can create dripstones in caves. The research illustrates how biological life can influence the formation of Earth's geology.”

The article reported on a group of researchers from Denmark, Sweden and Spain who investigated dripstone formation in a Swedish cave and found out that microbes played an active role in their formation.

Obviously, the previous view was too simplistic:

According to traditional textbooks, dripstones are created by geological or geochemical processes with no influence from living organisms. But now scientists report that formation of dripstones can be a lot more complex than that: Sometimes microbes are responsible for the formation of these geological features.”

The textbook explanation features a slow process that takes thousands, if not millions of years. We now know that at least in some caves this is not true but stalagmites and stalactites get help from micro organisms. As yet, they are not sure whether this speeds up the process.

It has been known for some decades that dripstones can form much faster than generally expected. For instance, Emil Silvestru, a karstologist or cave expert with a PhD in geology, has criticised the conventional belief in millions of years for cave formation, as it is based on assumptions that cannot be verified.


Microbes can create dripstones in caves. Science Daily, August 18, 2014.