Cave markings

May 2, 2012

The Column

The Column, The Column-05-02-2012, Volume 8, Issue 8
Page Number: 8

The Lascaux cave in France contains some of the best?known Paleolithic cave art, estimated to be over 17?000 years old.

The Lascaux cave in France contains some of the best‑known Paleolithic cave art, estimated to be over 17 000 years old. The cave is now no longer open to the public due to an outbreak of green algae 40 years ago. In 2001 there was an outbreak of the fungi Fusarium solani and biocides were applied in an attempt to control it.

A team of scientists have investigated the specific fungal communities associated with the black stains and how effective the biocides were that were applied.1 They did this using a combination of culturing and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) to analyse the stains. In 2007 and 2008 the most common fungus found was Ochroconis lascauxensis, which increased when biocides were applied. In investigations carried out in 2010 the fungal species found were different from those collected in 2008 and 2009.

The team concluded that the intensive biocides applied only served to increase the black stains in the cave. Research is ongoing but for now this is an important breakthrough to ensure that the problem is not exacerbated any further.

1. Cesareo Saiz-Jimenez et al., Environmental Science and Technology, 46(7), 3762–3770 (2012).

This story originally appeared in The Column. Click here to view that issue.