Strange alien slime discovered living beneath the Nullarbor Plain

Mar 06, 2013
Credit: Steve Trewavas

(Phys.org) —Deep in water-filled underground caves beneath Australia's Nullarbor Plain, cave divers have discovered unusual 'curtains' of biological material – known as Nullarbor cave slimes.

Researchers Sasha Tetu, Katy Breakwell, Liam Elbourne, Andrew Holmes, Michael Gillings and Ian Paulsen from Macquarie University, are exploring how this alien ecosystem works. They published their findings this week in the journal of the International Society for , showing that an unusual combination of microbes thrive in the Weebubbie caves.

"Earlier studies on the community suggested that there was an unusual chemistry going on in the caves, but we didn't know how the microbes were making a living in the environment," says the lead scientist Professor Ian Paulsen, Macquarie University.

In order to find this 'missing link', the team of researchers made use of a range of new technologies, such next-generation sequencing of environmental DNA and to take an in-depth look at the composition of the Weebubbie cave slime community. This approach detected a dominant group of organisms in the cave slimes, known as the Thaumarchaeota. This community of microbes thrives in the total dark, independent of photosynthesis.

It is thought that the periodic inundations of the Nullarbor caves by the sea occurred a number of times in the geological past and so researchers suggest that the Weebubbie Thaumarchaeota may have a marine origin.

"We know that the Nullarbor Plain's karst system arose from the sea in the Middle and so this may be a clue as to where the Weebubbie Thaumarchaeota came from," says Professor Paulsen

The research team says this analysis shows that the organisms make up the Weebubbie cave slime community make their living in a very unusual way – by oxidizing ammonia in the salty cave water – and are completely independent of sunlight and ecosystems on the surface.

"It just goes to show that life in the dark recesses of the planet comes in many strange forms, many of which are still unknown," says Professor Paulsen.

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User comments : 24

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Anda
3.6 / 5 (17) Mar 06, 2013
Why "alien" in the title???? Editors!!!
Shootist
3.2 / 5 (19) Mar 06, 2013
Why "alien" in the title???? Editors!!!


Yawn.

alien, adj. unlike one's own; strange; not belonging.

Do you oxidize ammonia? Do you know of anything that lives that oxidizes ammonia?
VendicarE
2.8 / 5 (19) Mar 06, 2013
Rush Limbaugh oxidizes ammonia.
Lurker2358
3.2 / 5 (5) Mar 06, 2013
Maybe these critters could live on Neptune or even Uranus.
Q-Star
3 / 5 (6) Mar 06, 2013
Why "alien" in the title???? Editors!!!


Yawn.

alien, adj. unlike one's own; strange; not belonging.

Do you oxidize ammonia? Do you know of anything that lives that oxidizes ammonia?

Why "alien" in the title???? Editors!!!


Yawn.

alien, adj. unlike one's own; strange; not belonging.

Do you oxidize ammonia? Do you know of anything that lives that oxidizes ammonia?


Many types of bacteria do,,,,,

http://www.ncbi.n...11544365

http://stahl.ce.w...mox.html
Isaacsname
5 / 5 (14) Mar 06, 2013
This article feldspar short of my hopes.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Mar 06, 2013
Yawn.

alien, adj. unlike one's own; strange; not belonging.
Perhaps it resembles guacamole.
axemaster
5 / 5 (5) Mar 06, 2013
This article feldspar short of my hopes.

They're just trying to fill plagioclase.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (8) Mar 06, 2013
This article feldspar short of my hopes.

They're just trying to fill plagioclase.
Thats not very gneiss.
event
5 / 5 (4) Mar 06, 2013
This article feldspar short of my hopes.

They're just trying to fill plagioclase.
Thats not very gneiss.

Such igneous puns!
Neinsense99
1.8 / 5 (10) Mar 06, 2013
VendicarE Rush Limbaugh oxidizes ammonia.
Rush Limbaugh exploits moronia. There, fixed that for you.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.6 / 5 (7) Mar 06, 2013
You all have rocks in your head
LarryD
not rated yet Mar 06, 2013
Sure there was a 1960's song that went 'wee bub bie ree bub'
Telekinetic
4.1 / 5 (9) Mar 06, 2013
Have to be careful diving down that deep- you can catch ammonia.
Sinister1811
2.7 / 5 (12) Mar 06, 2013
Why "alien" in the title???? Editors!!!


They used that word because it resembles something from an alien movie. And also because the organisms have formed their own independent ecosystem.
BSD
1 / 5 (10) Mar 07, 2013
Many types of bacteria do,,,,,


As in Rush Limbaugh?

Maybe these critters could live on Neptune or even Uranus.


What about my anus?
cjhsuliman
not rated yet Mar 07, 2013
tooth plaque is seemingly similar in characteristics
Birger
4.7 / 5 (3) Mar 07, 2013
"Nullarbor cave slime resembles tooth plaque" is not a very sexy title...
Isaacsname
3.4 / 5 (5) Mar 08, 2013
The big question in my mind is: How closely related are Ghost of Otto and the newly-discovered slime ?
baudrunner
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 08, 2013
Looks to me like if they ate that, they might well be able to do long division.
VENDItardE
2.3 / 5 (6) Mar 10, 2013
VendicarE licks ammonia's slime.
BSD
2 / 5 (4) Mar 11, 2013
Our conservative Liberal party is on some sort of party conference under the Nullabor, it must be them. If you look carefully, the cave diving journalist appears to be interviewing the Leader Of The Opposition.
Osiris1
5 / 5 (4) Mar 11, 2013
Dog gone! Make a decent article about how different life can be or how far it can adapt and present it: and out come the trolls!
ValeriaT
2.2 / 5 (5) Mar 11, 2013
Why "alien" in the title???? Editors!!!
Because such a word will attract the attention of readers subconsciously. Did you read about subliminal commercials?