03 Jun 2011
Hundalm Eis- and Tropfstein Höhle, a small and partly touristic cave at 1520 m a.s.l. in the Lower Inn Valley near Angerberg is the study site of a double research initiative involving microbiologists. Given the fact that this cave has a cold, perennial ice-bearing upper part and a warmer, ice-free lower part (being separated from each other by a narrow squeeze and a gate) our strategy is to study and compare microbial communities in both compartments.
In the lower part of the cave we sampled actively forming moonmilk coating walls in the lower part of the Osterhalle. In the upper part we obtained two short horizontal ice cores from the deepest and presumably oldest ice at the Tiefster Punkt.
Sampling of moonmilk was performed by Christoph Reitschuler (group of Paul Illmer, Institute of Microbiology) and Patricia Rittig. Preliminary results of a set of samples taken last year in the same cave chamber revealed an unexpected wealth of microorganisms including archaea and bacteria, whose role in precipitating the peculiar moonmilk deposits is currently unknown.
Ice coring was conducted by Birgit Sattler (Institute of Ecology) and this research is partly supported by a grant from
Aktion D. Swarovski & Co (to Christoph Spötl & Birgit Sattler). An earlier pilot study in another alpine ice cave (Grubstein Eishöhle, Totes Gebirge) showed that cave ice contains a high diversity of bacteria (see abstract at IWIC-IV Meeting, Obertraun/Dachstein, 2010).
See publication (in German) on the microbiology of moonmilk from Hundalm cave:
Reitschuler, C., Schwarzenauer, T., Lins, P., Wagner, A.O., Spötl, C., Illmer, P. (2012): Zur Mikrobiologie von Bergmilch. – Die Höhle, 63, 3-17.