Posted on behalf of Roberta Kwok
A black fungus is eating away at spectacular prehistoric cave drawings in France, and a team of scientists has convened in Paris to figure out a solution.
The Lascaux cave in southwest France, known as the “Sistine Chapel of Prehistory”, contains 17,000-year-old drawings of horses, bulls, and ibexes (AFP). A white fungus called Fusarium solani that began spreading in 2001 was treated with fungicides and antibiotics, only to be followed by an outbreak of the black Ulocladium fungus.
The cave’s health is currently “stable”, says Marc Gauthier, head of the cave’s scientific committee (AFP). “The black spots are not shrinking, nor are they progressing,” he says.
Gauthier says the fungus problems have been exacerbated by global warming, which is stopping air circulation in the caves (AP). Conservationists have criticized France for installing an air-conditioning system, which may have caused the initial fungus growth (AFP).
France’s Culture Minister, Christine Albanel, invited scientists from around the world to discuss possible solutions, which might include a temperature regulation system or bacteria-killing biocides (AP). The cave’s ecosystem is “fiendishly complex”, says the seminar’s chairman Jean Clottes, containing a hundred or more micro-organisms (AFP).
The cave is currently closed to the public.