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Curr Microbiol. 2000 Feb;40(2):81-5.

Phototrophic biofilms on ancient Mayan buildings in Yucatan, Mexico.

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Laboratoire de Biochimie des Molécules Marines, DRV/VP/BMM, IFREMER, B.P. 70, 29280, Plouzané, France.


Buildings at the important archaeological sites of Uxmal and Kabah, Mexico, are being degraded by microbial biofilms. Phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) and chlorophyll a analyses indicated that phototrophs were the major epilithic microorganisms and were more prevalent on interior walls than exterior walls. Culture and microscopical techniques showed that Xenococcus formed the major biomass on interior surfaces, but the stone-degrading genera Gloeocapsa and Synechocystis were also present in high numbers. Relatively few filamentous algae and cyanobacteria were detected. The fatty acid analysis also showed that complex biofilms colonize these buildings. Circular depressions observed by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) on stone and stucco surfaces beneath the biofilm corresponded in shape and size to coccoid cyanobacteria. SEM images also demonstrated the presence of calcareous deposits on some coccoid cells in the biofilm. Phototrophic biofilms may contribute to biodegradation by (1) providing nutrients that support growth of acid-producing fungi and bacteria and (2) active "boring" behavior, the solubilized calcium being reprecipitated as calcium carbonate.

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