Nature & Environment
Weird 'alien' ecosystem emerges in abandoned uranium mine
By T.K. Randall
February 6, 2023 · 12 comments
Weird life forms abound in the mine's old tunnels. Image Credit: I. Zirnstein et al, MicrobiologyOpen, 2012
Strange life forms have been found thriving in an environment that's totally inhospitable to almost everything else.
When it comes to environments conducive to life, the interior of the destroyed reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the depths of a long-abandoned uranium mine are certainly not the first places you'd think to look.
Incredibly, however, places like these have become home to entire ecosystems of strange life forms.
Scientists recently delved into an abandoned uranium mine deep beneath Germany's Sandstone Mountains to investigate a peculiar ecosystem found in the pitch-black, radiation-filled tunnels.
The mine opened back in the 1960s but was later flooded and abandoned in the 1990s.
Today, however, its dilapidated tunnels are home to orange acidic 'streamers', stalactites formed from slime communities and strange gunk that makes the walls look as though they are melting.
Organisms found here include multi-celled eukaryotes, shape-altering amoebae, multi-appendaged flagellates and squid-like Heterolobosea.
This place, it turns out, is as alien as anything you might find in a science-fiction movie.
Life, it seems, has a habit of turning up in the most unexpected of places.
Source: Big Think
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