Microbial life in Movile Cave – an unusual cave ecosystem
Movile Cave (Mangalia, Romania) is a unique cave ecosystem sustained by in situ chemoautotrophic primary production, analogous to deep-sea hydrothermal vents. The cave has been cut-off from the surface for the past 5.5 million years with the primary energy source coming mainly from hydrogen sulfide and methane released from the thermal fluids. Invertebrates, many of which are endemic to Movile Cave, are isotopically lighter in both carbon and nitrogen than surface organisms, indicating that chemoautotrophic primary production, primarily driven by methane and sulfur oxidizing microorganisms, occurs in the cave. In this talk, I will present our recent work on the microbiology of the Movile Cave ecosystem, with particular emphasis on functional diversity of Bacteria involved in aerobic one-carbon (methane and methylated amine) metabolism. Insights from metagenomic and genomic sequence analyses of the microbial community and isolates, respectively, will be discussed in detail.