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Fungus troubles caves
January 25, 2008 10:30 AM   Subscribe

Fusarium solani, a fungus known for attacking tomatoes, has become a major problem in France's famous Lascaux Cave, a World Heritage site. Authorities say it's under control, but that's disputed. "They tell us the cave's condition is stable. But that's what they say about Ariel Sharon," said one anonymous expert quoted in a special report by Time magazine. The fungus is also believed responsible for a deadly epidemic of "White-Nose Syndrome" that has been killing bats in the Northeastern U.S. over the last few years. The fungus is durable: "Authorities began spraying massive doses of antibiotics and fungicides [in Lascaux] in an effort to stop the rapidly spreading organisms. Within weeks the molds reappeared quickly developing a resistance to the antibiotic sprays."
posted by Kirth Gerson (24 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
The fungus is believed to have been introduced after contractors began to install a new air conditioning system that was meant to preserve the precious 17,000-year-old cave paintings from the heat and humidity generated by their many visitors.

d'oh! But at least it gives me an idea. Just don't shine the UV on the paintings and you should be OK.
posted by DU at 10:38 AM on January 25, 2008


"The construction site was run like someone redoing a bathroom. The entrance to the cave was like a swamp and there was construction waste all over the place. It was like an apocalyptic vision," Rosalie Godin, a local art restorer, told Time.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:41 AM on January 25, 2008


Step 1: buy a large number of electric hotplates
Step 2: plug in said hotplates
Step 3: seal cave
Step 4: place formaldehyde in pans atop hotplates
Step 5: run, and do not reenter cave any time soon

...the heat produced by the hotplates would be a problem, but on the other hand there wouldn't be much of anything alive in there.
posted by aramaic at 10:42 AM on January 25, 2008


"Within weeks the molds reappeared quickly developing a resistance to the antibiotic sprays.' "

A fungus immune to antibiotics. Weird, that.
posted by mullingitover at 10:42 AM on January 25, 2008


Sharon is stable: no changes for the better or the worse and he continues in the state he is in. The caves? not stable but getting worse, or changing for the worse.
posted by Postroad at 10:49 AM on January 25, 2008


Attack of the Tomato Killers?
posted by Dave Faris at 10:49 AM on January 25, 2008


But the second derivative is stable. Or maybe the third.
posted by DU at 10:57 AM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


My gf and i talked about the white-nose syndrome the other day (she used to catch bats for research and is still on a listserve), apparently it kills bats by forcing them to use energy they normally use to survive the winter hibernating to fight the fungus. This is really bad, because one of the bat species they are talking about in the 'white-nose syndrome' link is the Indiana bat, which is endangered. The other disconcerting thing is that this hibernacula is quite large.

I had no idea that this fungus originated(?) in tomatos, or that it mutated this quickly...

This is bad.
posted by schyler523 at 11:51 AM on January 25, 2008


"The figures are so modernist in design that when Picasso emerged from the cave soon after it was first discovered in 1940 he exclaimed: "We have invented nothing.""

Nice.

Im torn tho, as I love fungi, bats, and art. Who am I supposed to root for!?
posted by rosswald at 1:22 PM on January 25, 2008


Who am I supposed to root for!?

Competence in the godamned people who are supposed to these things. How hard of a job is this? If one cannot properly see to the installation of HVAC equipment in a cave, I do not have high hopes that either the paintings or the bats will survive subsequent efforts.
posted by three blind mice at 1:29 PM on January 25, 2008


...to manage these things...

*ahem*
posted by three blind mice at 1:30 PM on January 25, 2008


Interesting fact, according to the official Lascaux site: "Since the Lascaux Cave is closed to the public, a replica has been created at Montignac, 200 metres from the original cave, where two of the galleries have been reproduced: the Great Hall of the Bulls and the Painted Gallery."
Also, French scouts received the 1992 igNobel Archeology price "...for erasing the ancient [1500 years old] paintings from the walls of the Meyrieres Cave near the French village of Bruniquel."
In any case the Chauvet caves are much more interesting.
posted by surrendering monkey at 2:01 PM on January 25, 2008


While in residency I had a patient who developed an infection by a Fusarium species after a bone marrow transplant. It went badly.
posted by neuron at 2:09 PM on January 25, 2008


Pour moi, je fais bon accueil à nos nouveaux suzerains fongiques.
posted by XMLicious at 3:25 PM on January 25, 2008


mullingitover writes "A fungus immune to antibiotics. Weird, that."

Caught that too, I assumed either a translation error or typical sloppy science reporting of anti fungal.
posted by Mitheral at 7:23 PM on January 25, 2008


But guys, spreading deadly Fusarium fungi is good! and will save us from those evil drugs. Not to mention any other "undesirable plants." What could possi-blye go wrong? (Check the date on this article with the breathless prediction of imminent triumph over the coca plant.)
posted by telstar at 2:57 AM on January 26, 2008


Pour moi, je fais bon accueil à nos nouveaux suzerains fongiques.

Moi, j'utilise Babelpoisson pour composer mes remarques spirituels.

C'est tellement plus facile et en plus ça ajoute cette couche d'«ironie» impénétrable.

Bof.
posted by Wolof at 4:53 AM on January 26, 2008


Sorry Wolof, I was saying "I for one welcome our new fungal overlords." Sort of an overdone meme, that's why I went with the French twist.

"remarques spirituels"? What did Babelfish translate into that?
posted by XMLicious at 2:52 PM on January 26, 2008


I wouldn't be so eager to welcome them, XM.

Fusarium infections are difficult to treat and the invasive forms are often fatal.


posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:22 PM on January 26, 2008


What did Babelfish translate into that?

I, uh, speak the language. Don't need no steenking fish.
posted by Wolof at 2:06 AM on January 27, 2008


I, uh, speak the language. Don't need no steenking fish.

Pardon my evidently lacking command of French, but didn't you literally say "I use Babelfish to write my spiritual comments"? Unless "remarques spirituels" is an extremely rare idiom for something composed in Babelfish? 3 Google.fr hits total including this page.

In any case I have only one thing to say - Je mange ma valise! Touché!
posted by XMLicious at 8:44 PM on January 31, 2008


«spirituel» = "witty".

I hope that suitcase isn't too chewy. It may repeat on you.
posted by Wolof at 11:00 PM on January 31, 2008


Ah, I see - it ought to be remarques spirituelles, that's why there were no Google results. Had I noticed that it would've been obvious you weren't using Babelfish! C'est une ironie, vraiment. Nous sommes experts connaisseurs de la langue, n'est-ce pas?
posted by XMLicious at 11:54 PM on January 31, 2008


Shit, wrong gender. I was drinking.
posted by Wolof at 12:03 AM on February 2, 2008


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