Along the last two decades, a progressive bacterial and fungal colonization has been detected in show caves and rock art caves, including the world wide known Altamira (Spain) and Lascaux (France) caves.  Andalusian caves were n ot being controlled from  the microbiological point of view, and for this reason we proposed the research project RMN 5137, funded by the regional m inistery for research, intitled “Microbial observatory of caves: assessment and control of fungal communities in caves submitted to the impact of touristic activities”,  performed along the period 2010.2012.

This project proposed the creation of a Microbial Observatory of Caves, where by means of the study of the aerobiology of several Andalusian caves the microorganisms present in the ecosystem could be controlled, and thus allow the early detection of microbial outbreaks which could be dangeorus for the conservation of the cave or its rock art, if applicable.

During those three years, the air of the caves of Ardales and El Tesoro, in Malaga province, and the Gruta de las Maravillas cave, in Aracena, Huelva province, was sampled along the four seasons of the year. A high number of bacteria and fungi was isolated, later identified at the levels of genus and species. Nevertheless, some few species of bacteria and fungi resulted unknown, and new for science. Among them, we found a new bacteria that we named Bacillus onubensis, as we initially isolated it from the air of Gruta de las Maravillas, althoug we later found it also in the air of Cueva del Tesoro, at a distance of more than 300 km, which demonstrates its wide distribution in Andalusian caves.

In the last years, the research group “Environmental Microbiology and Cultural Heritage” from Instituto de Recursos Naturales y Agrobiología de Sevilla has described 22 new bacterial species and 5 fungal species, among them  Aspergillus baeticus, also isolated from Gruta de las Maravillas in 2012.

Dominguez-Moñino I., Jurado V., Gonzalez-Pimentel J.L., Miller A.Z., Hermosin B., Saiz-Jimenez C. 2018. Bacillus onubensis sp. nov. isolated from the air of two Andalusian caves. Systematic and Applied Microbiology. 41, 167-172.

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