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Complex Subterranean Ecosystems

Posted: Tue Mar 10, 2015 9:18 pm
by Floridian Dream
Most known ecosystems within the dark depths of caves are quite small and simple due to their being little oxygen and food to go around, on account that the lack of light makes it difficult for plants to photosynthesize, but I theorize that within the unexplored depths of the cave systems, life may have adapted and arranged itself in a way to form a much more lively and complex ecosystem.

Needless to say, plants can be introduced to cavern depths as seeds in the guano of bats, guano of which can provide moisture and nutrients for the growing plants. Light can be obtained by means other than sunlight, such as a symbiotic relationship with bioluminescent fungi or bacteria, or if the walls are lined with fluorescent minerals (although this may be the least likely, since such minerals need exposure to light themselves to glow). I imagine that floors may be sprouting with glowing fungi and the walls coated in biofilms of phosphorescent bacteria, both things of which lit the caverns and provide light for plants to photosynthesize and provide an amount of oxygen adequate to sustaining subterranean megafauna.

In another scenario, I imagine there being organisms that rely on chemosynthesis, converting chemical gases like methane (which can be produced by animals) into breathable oxygen.

Re: Complex Subterranean Ecosystems

Posted: Tue Mar 10, 2015 9:54 pm
by Asp Zelazny
Not exactly the same, but perhaps adaptable, is the sulfur-based ecosystems of the deep ocean vents. No light penetrates to those depths, but a complex plant and animal ecology exists using the heat from the volcanic gas outflow at those locations.

Some effect of that nature is considered a possible driver for life in the under-ice oceans of Europa.