Abstract

The twilight zone of a cave, an environment transitional between the well-illuminated environment outside the cave and the dark environment of the cave interior, is one of the most unusual microenvironments of the karst terrain. Walls in the twilight zone of caves on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac are coated with a biofilm that incorporates a diverse assemblage of epilithic microbes and copious mucus. Most microbes are different from those found elsewhere in the karst terrains of the Cayman Islands, probably because they have adapted to life in the poorly illuminated twilight zone. None of the microbes employ an endolithic life mode, and less than 10% of them show evidence of calcification. The biofilm does, however, provide a medium in which a broad spectrum of destructive and constructive processes operate. Etching, the dominant destructive process, produces residual dolomite, residual calcite, blocky calcite, and spiky calcite. Constructive processes include precipitation of calcite, dolomite, gypsum, halite, and sylvite. Although filamentous microbes are common, examples of detrital grains trapped and bound to the substrate are rare. Destructive processes are more common than constructive ones.

You do not currently have access to this article.