Life Without Light


Life Without Light: The Natural History of Movile Cave, Romania – from microbes to arthropods

Richboden Movilecave

Speaker: Dr Rich Boden FLS

Movile Cave is located in south eastern Romania and since its discovery in 1986 has remained one of the most fascinating and unique ecosystems on Earth. The Cave has no natural entrance and yet is full of living organisms from Bacteria and Archaea up to large Eukarya. Without light, all primary productivity in the Cave is based on chemosynthesis and is performed by vast “mats” of microbes which float on the groundwaters of the Cave’s submerged galleries. All organisms found in the Cave are uniquely adapted to life without light – whilst they lack eyes and pigments they have longer antennae and legs than would be found in their surface-dwelling cousins. The food web of the Cave is complex, starting with the microbial assimilation of carbon dioxide and methane at the expense of inorganic sulfur compounds and hydrogen and progressing up to the top predator: a cave-adapted subspecies of Cryptops anomalans Newport. In addition to being devoid of light, the Cave has a hostile, suffocating atmosphere with less than half the oxygen concentration of air but with over one hundred times the normal amount of carbon dioxide and high concentrations of toxic hydrogen sulfide.

Dr Rich Boden FLS is Lecturer in Environmental Microbiology & Biotechnology at the University of Plymouth (UK) and was the first UK scientist to enter Movile Cave in 2010. In addition to two expeditions into the Cave, Dr Boden’s research covers the bacteriology of the Cave and how the microbes present fuel the entire ecosystem up to large insects, worms and leeches using chemicals present in the water and the rocks of the Cave. This lecture will cover the history of Movile Cave and its natural history from the top predator arthropods down to the microbes which make the whole ecosystem possible as well as drawing from Dr Boden’s experiences in the Cave and of his expeditions.

This meeting is free and open to all; registration is not necessary.