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World-famous prehistoric paintings of the Lascaux Cave (Nov. 2004). The cave has been closed to the public since the sixties because of microbial development. 

World-famous prehistoric paintings of the Lascaux Cave (Nov. 2004). The cave has been closed to the public since the sixties because of microbial development. 

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Lascaux Cave was discovered in 1940. Twenty years after the first microbial contamination signs appeared. In the last forty years thecave suffered different fungal invasions. Here we discuss the past, present and future of the cave and the conservation of its rock artpaintings to the light of data obtained using culture-dependent and –independent m...

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... and fungi are capable of colonizing almost every niche. Caves are not an exception and are distinctive habitats with nearly complete darkness, relatively constant air and water temperatures, high moisture, and a poor supply of easily degradable organic matter. Caves were suggested to be considered as extreme environments for life because they provide ecological niches for highly specialized microorganisms (Schabereiter-Gurtner et al., 2004). Reactive mineral surfaces and solute-rich groundwater provide sufficient energy sources for chemolithoautotrophic growth at the rock surface and can serve as the base for a cave food web, increasing both food quality and quantity (Poulson & Lavoie, 2000; Kinkle & Kane, 2000). Subsurface microorganisms generally seem to be active at very low but significant rates and several investigations indicate that chemolithoautotrophs form a chemosynthetic base providing substrates for heterotrophic life (Pedersen, 2000). Movile Cave, Romania, a sulfidic cave system, was the first documented chemolithoautotrophically-based cave and groundwater ecosystem (Sarbu et al., 1996). Chemolithoautotrophic microbial growth has been found in other active sulfidic cave systems, including Parker Cave (Angert et al., 1998), the Frasassi Caves, Italy (Vlasceanu et al., 2000; Sarbu et al., 2000), Cueva de Villa Luz, Mexico (Hose et al., 2000), Cesspool Cave (Engel et al., 2001), and the flooded Nullarbor caves, Australia (Holmes et al., 2001). In Lechuguilla Cave (New Mexico, USA) the organic input is limited due to the depth, but bacterial and fungal colonisation is relatively extensive (Cunningham et al., 1995). They suggested that chemolithoautotrophs are present in the ceiling-bound residues and could act as primary producers in a unique subterranean microbial food chain (Engel et al., 2004). Barton et al. (2007) showed that in a cave environment, the microbial community subsisted by using barely perceptible carbon and energy sources, including organics entering the system through percolation, and the presence of volatile organic molecules within the atmosphere. In some caves the organic material present in the dripping waters have a phenolic and aromatic nature (Saiz-Jimenez & Hermosin, 1999; Sylvia et al., 1999). Also, different studies have shown that in some caves microorganisms are not properly chemolithoautotrophs, but instead are translocated soil heterotrophs, chemoorganotrophs or fecal coliform bacteria from contaminated surface water that are associated to surface inputs (Laiz et al. 1999; Simon et al., 2003). Some caves are open for tourism because they are particularly interesting for their prehistoric paintings as the Lascaux cave (Fig. 1) or their mineralogical formations, such as stalactites. Efforts are made to determine human impact on cave conservation, and to prevent detrimental effects due to human activities. Indeed, microenvironmental data such as temperature, CO 2 concentration, moisture and atmospheric pressure, clearly showed the negative influence of visitors (Hoyos et al. 1998). In Kartchner Caves, Arizona, Ikner et al. (2007) showed that bacterial diversity generally decreased as human impact increased. The degree of human impact was also reflected in the phylogeny of the isolates recovered, Proteobacteria dominating in communities exposed to high levels of human contact. This study also showed that although the abundance of bacteria along the cave include microbes of the environment rather than microorganisms of anthropogenic origin, it is likely that their presence is a consequence of increased availability of organic matter introduced by visitors. Inappropriate artificial illumination of archaeological remains and their interior works of art (Albertano, 1991; Albertano and Bruno, 2003; Albertano et al., 2003; Ariño et al., 1997) resulted in the uncontrolled development of photosynthetic microorganisms, primarily cyanobacteria and microalgae (Hernandez- Mariné et al., 2003; Hoffmann 2002, Lefèvre 1974, Ortega-Calvo et al., 1993, Roldan et al., 2004), forming greenish biofilms that contribute to surface deterioration. These organisms feature a matrix composed primarily of exopolymers that are involved in the resistance of biofilms to adverse abiotic conditions as well as in attachment (Albertano et al., 2003; Decho, 2000; Tamaru et al., 2005). Control efforts usually focus on cleaning damaged surfaces or on chemical treatments that have little efficacy against biofilms (Costerton et al., 1999; Kumar & Kumar, 1999). Hence, there is an ever-increasing interest in the development of alternative strategies for preventing and minimizing biofilm development. In the last decade Lascaux Cave suffered progressive microbial colonization. Here we discuss on ...

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... The microbiological impact caused by visitors must be considered too (Saiz Jimenez 2012;Mulec 2014). Attention towards this topic was first raised when, starting in the 60s, after artificial lights were installed, the famous Lascaux Cave got impacted by the growth of photosynthetic algae and cyanobacteria, and later by fungi and a variety of microbial communities (Bastian and Alabouvette 2009). In more recent times, these environmental concerns have increased drastically with the insurgence of the "White Nose Syndrome" in 2006, which decimated the bat population in northern America in a few years' time (Blehert et al. 2009), and the present pandemic situation , which required the adaptation of strategies to avoid the spreading of the coronavirus (Barton 2020). ...
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... Cave sites ( Figure 2) are often isolated from the surface dynamic, and their microenvironmental conditions are generally steady up to the discovery of rock art when pristine climatic and biological conditions are perturbated by humans visiting the site for scientific and/or touristic purposes [11][12][13][14][15][16]. In such conditions, for instance, variations in humidity, light, and the colonization of microorganisms represent a potential threat to rock art [17][18][19][20], as well as for the whole cave ecosystem [21,22]. ...
... Such categories are merely related to topographic and geomorphological factors tuning the stability of environmental processes in correspondence of rock art sites and have no cultural, anthropological, or artistic implication. Cave sites ( Figure 2) are often isolated from the surface dynamic, and their microenvironmental conditions are generally steady up to the discovery of rock art when pristine climatic and biological conditions are perturbated by humans visiting the site for scientific and/or touristic purposes [11][12][13][14][15][16]. In such conditions, for instance, variations in humidity, light, and the colonization of microorganisms represent a potential threat to rock art [17][18][19][20], as well as for the whole cave ecosystem [21,22]. ...
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... Complex and diverse microbial communities can colonize these relics and, in many cases, they contribute to the deterioration of these items (4)(5)(6). Microorganisms that thrive on relics might be just a reflection of the surrounding environmental microbiome (7). Yet, little is known about the ecology involving the origin, composition, and establishment of microbiomes on cultural relics (3,8). ...
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In show caves, artificial lighting is intended to illuminate striking cave formations for visitors. However, artificial lighting also promotes the growth of novel and diverse biofilm communities, termed lampenflora, that obtain their energy from these artificial light sources. Lampenflora, which generally consist of cyanobacteria, algae, diatoms, and bryophytes, discolor formations and introduce novel ecological interactions in cave ecosystems. The source of lampenflora community members and patterns of diversity have generally been understudied mainly due to technological limitations. In this study, we investigate whether members of lampenflora communities in an iconic show cave—Lehman Caves—in Great Basin National Park (GRBA) in the western United States also occur in nearby unlit and rarely visited caves. Using a high-throughput environmental DNA metabarcoding approach targeting three loci—the ITS2 (fungi), a fragment of the 16S (bacteria), and a fragment of 23S (photosynthetic bacteria and eukaryotes)—we characterized diversity of lampenflora communities occurring near artificial light sources in Lehman Caves and rock surfaces near the entrances of seven nearby “wild” caves. Most caves supported diverse and distinct microbial-dominated communities, with little overlap in community members among caves. The lampenflora communities in the show cave were distinct, and generally less diverse, from those occurring in nearby unlit caves. Our results suggest an unidentified source for a significant proportion of lampenflora community members in Lehman Caves, with the majority of community members not found in nearby wild caves. Whether the unique members of the lampenflora communities in Lehman Caves are related to distinct abiotic conditions, increased human visitation, or other factors remains unknown. These results provide a valuable framework for future research exploring lampenflora community assemblies in show caves, in addition to a broad perspective into the range of microbial and lampenflora community members in GRBA. By more fully characterizing these communities, we can better monitor the establishment of lampenflora and design effective strategies for their management and removal.