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Scientists Discover Underworld of Sunken Caves and Subterranean Rivers in Mexico

Source: Newsweek/Hannah Osborne - December 5, 2017 in Adventure

Scientists Discover Underworld of Sunken Caves and Subterranean Rivers in Mexico
Photo: Mikhail Vedyokhin/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.5)

A cryptic sunken underworld in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is home to a previously unknown ecosystem being fuelled by methane, scientists have announced.

The weird, otherworldly flooded caves and subterranean rivers have been found to host lifeforms in the same way as parts of the deep oceans and lakes —providing scientists with a better understanding of how these hidden worlds function.

Researchers from the U.S., Mexico and Europe ventured into the Ox Bel Ha cave network in the north-eastern part of Yucatan through a huge sinkhole. The sinkhole is also where the freshwater supplying the subterranean estuary comes from—rainfall and salt water from the ocean feed into it to form the distinct water layers found there.

For their study, the team analyzed the lifeforms and water layers found in different parts of the caves. Their findings, published in Nature Communications, shows how methane and bacteria that feeds off it forms the basis of the food system.

The methane forms under the jungle floor above the cave system and then migrates downwards.

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