Hundreds of years ago, the volcanic process that created the Hawaiian Islands also created a network of underground tunnels and caves.
Cold, black and full of poisonous gases and metals. So, pretty much unfriendly to most life forms.
However, scientists have discovered that these volcanic vents actually contain complex and extensive microbial colonies.
These are the smallest known living things on Earth and we don’t know much about them.
In fact, an estimated 99.999 percent of all types of microbes are still unknown. As a result, some people refer to this mysterious life form as “dark matter”.
However, they still make up a substantial portion of the Earth’s biomass.
The interest of experts in the lava caves of Hawaii is that the conditions there are as close as possible to Mars or any other distant planet.
And if microbes can survive in lava tubes that are 600-800 years old, we may find some of them on Mars at some point.
Researchers have found that ancient lava caves, which are more than 500 years old, generally contained a more diverse array of microbes.
Because of this they believe that it took a long time for these tiny creatures to settle in the volcanic basalt. As the environment changes over time, so does the social structure.
When caves are smaller and more active, microbial colonies tend to be closer to each other in terms of species.
“This brings us to the question, do extreme environments help create more interactive microbial communities, in which microorganisms are more dependent on one another?” She says microbiologist Rebecca Prescott of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
“And if so, what about the harsh environment that helped create it?”
Although there is much we don’t know, scientists agree that competition is a strong force in difficult environments.
“Overall, this research helps to illustrate how important it is to study microbes in co-culture, rather than growing them alone[as an isolate],” Prescott said.
“In nature, microbes do not grow in isolation. Instead, they grow, live and interact with many other microorganisms in a sea of chemical signals from those other microbes. This can change their gene expression, in society. may affect their work.
The results of the study have been published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology.
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