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Why Study Caves ?
Hands Studying Samples in Spider Cave
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This is a picture of hands studing samples in Spider Cave. Studying such strange things in cave is of course exciting, but there's more to it than just pure excitement. Read on to find out what we mean!
Hands Studying Samples in Spider Cave
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How Can Studying Caves Keep Cars Safe and Our Pipes Clear?

Have you ever wondered why rust makes holes in the bottom of a car or why there is a ring around your toilet? These questions may seem silly to us, but in reality they are very important. They are actual chemical processes that constantly affect our everyday lives. The eating away of metal to form rust is a process called dissolution and the formation of a ring around your toilet is a process termed precipitation . People who work with the pipes underneath our cities and the people who make our cars work to prevent these processes everyday. In studying these chemical reactions in caves we can learn more about them and what part microorganisms take.

How Can Studying Caves Help Us Cure Cancer?

What would life be like without sunlight or supermarkets full of food? Caves lack sunlight and in some there's not a lot to eat. Natural selection works on microorganisms that live under these conditions and selects for those that produce chemical (also called secondary metabolites) that help keep their neighbors at bay. Think of these chemicals as the microbial assault weapons. These chemicals can be useful to humans in fighting disease. Larry Mallory, a microbiologist, and his colleagues at Biomes, Inc. have been studying the chemicals produced by microorganisms in Lechuguilla Cave in Carlsbad Caverns National Park. They're hoping to find a treatment for cancer from these powerful microbially produced chemicals.

How Can Studying Caves Show Us What Life May Be Like On Other Planets?

The recent discovery of flowing water on Mars has led scientists to believe that life on other planets may exist. At this time it is still impossible to physically study the planets for life. However, the environment of caves may give us an idea of what life may be like on other planets.

Why are caves a good place to begin the study of life on other planets?

We all know that it would be impossible for anything to survive on the surface of Mars. The extreme cold (the average temperature there is 55 C) and the thin atmosphere (1% of Earth's atmosphere) would be deadly to humans. However, a subsurface (a system of caves) of Mars may have formed from flowing water or volcanic eruptions (see how caves form) . Caves can help life forms survive by protecting them from the extreme cold and thin atmosphere. Many caves here on earth have not had much human contact and communities of microorganisms have apparently existed for millions of years without being affected harsh surface environment . Therefore, until a man can actually step foot on Mars, caves here on earth may give us some insight into how life may exist on other planets.

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How Do You Study Caves?
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What Do Scientists Have to Say?