What is this? Some sort of fibrous speleothem?

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What is this? Some sort of fibrous speleothem?

Postby JR-Orion » Sep 14, 2009 6:07 pm

As you can see by my post count, I'm new to this, and wasn't quite sure where to post this question. But here goes. I saw this odd looking thing in Maquoketa Caves, Iowa.

It is about the size of my hand and was growing on the cave floor, in a jumble of rocks. The cave wall can be seen at the back of the photo-

(click to enlarge)

Image

Some of the darker threads end in tiny, dark spheres-

Image

I did a google image search for gypsum needles and some of those pics looked similar to what I saw.

Any ideas? Someone walking past thought it might be a large fungus colonly...

Thanks.
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Re: What is this? Some sort of fibrous speleothem?

Postby Squirrel Girl » Sep 14, 2009 6:12 pm

It's almost certainly fungus. I remember when I started caving in Iowa, I was told the fungus was growing on racoon poop.
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Re: What is this? Some sort of fibrous speleothem?

Postby Phil Winkler » Sep 14, 2009 7:16 pm

It is definitely fungus growing on some organic material which is likely poop.

There was an article about this phenomenon early described in Odyssey Cave, Florida by researchers with the Ft Rucker/Ozark Grotto back in 1973. I recall the title being something like: This is what caves smell like!
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Re: What is this? Some sort of fibrous speleothem?

Postby JR-Orion » Sep 14, 2009 7:36 pm

Squirrel Girl wrote:It's almost certainly fungus. I remember when I started caving in Iowa, I was told the fungus was growing on racoon poop.


Fungus on poop. Glad I didn't get too close.

I did an image search for "Phycomyces" and some of those images came back looking exactly like what I saw.

Would have been more fun had it been some sort of cave formation, but still, at least I know what it is and will detour around it next time. :)
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Re: What is this? Some sort of fibrous speleothem?

Postby Squirrel Girl » Sep 14, 2009 9:08 pm

Don't forget about histo! I assumed I probably got dosed up there in Iowa, and never came down with a case that I could attribute to it. With luck it innoculated me!!
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Re: What is this? Some sort of fibrous speleothem?

Postby batrotter » Sep 15, 2009 8:22 am

That is some Don King fungus.
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Re: What is this? Some sort of fibrous speleothem?

Postby NZcaver » Sep 15, 2009 8:59 am

batrotter wrote:That is some Don King fungus.

:laughing: :clap:
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Re: What is this? Some sort of fibrous speleothem?

Postby JR-Orion » Sep 16, 2009 8:12 am

Well, I just looked up histoplasmosis. This has been educational, but still, I gotta say... yuck.
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Re: What is this? Some sort of fibrous speleothem?

Postby Squirrel Girl » Sep 16, 2009 4:23 pm

JR-Orion wrote:Well, I just looked up histoplasmosis. This has been educational, but still, I gotta say... yuck.

The great news is that if you don't get sick, it helps your immunity! I've never come down with the infection.
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Re: What is this? Some sort of fibrous speleothem?

Postby Phil Winkler » Sep 16, 2009 4:43 pm

I once read that over 50% of the people living in the Mississippi River area demonstrate prior exposure to histo. Something about being around chickens or other bird dried poop. Ergo, they never come down with the disease like Barbara.
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Re: What is this? Some sort of fibrous speleothem?

Postby Squirrel Girl » Sep 16, 2009 8:55 pm

Phil Winkler wrote:I once read that over 50% of the people living in the Mississippi River area demonstrate prior exposure to histo. Something about being around chickens or other bird dried poop. Ergo, they never come down with the disease like Barbara.

My brother-in-law nearly died of histo that he got from a chicken farm in Indiana. Fortunately cavers seem to fare better.
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Re: What is this? Some sort of fibrous speleothem?

Postby peter febb » Oct 2, 2009 7:13 am

Look up Mucor and Rhizopus stolonifer.
Infections from these have been known to be serious...including brain infection.
Pack out yer poop!
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Re: What is this? Some sort of fibrous speleothem?

Postby graveleye » Oct 2, 2009 1:36 pm

I'm pretty sure I've had histo as a kid from messing around in my grandparents chicken house and stuff.
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Re: What is this? Some sort of fibrous speleothem?

Postby caverx » Mar 28, 2010 11:43 am

We see this all over in Missouri caves. It is fungus from poop, usually Coon or Coyote. Speaking of
Hysto I actually have it. Not sure where I contracted it (maybe in Mexico caves) but there are a few forms. I remember reading something about some 13 UK cavers that contracted endo histoplasmosis in Mexico. I may be wrong but I believe they died of it. Two common forms here in the mid-west are Ocular which comes primarily from Birds, Pigeon poop, etc. and causes small cysts to develop in the eyes. Mine is in the lungs and was pretty scary as the Xray tech thought it may have been cancer. I have 11 small nodules in my lungs. Basically the viral bug was encompassed by calcium deposits, which is how lungs deal with foreign bodies in them. They appear to have stopped growing now but I have to have annual x-rays to monitor its progress.
The doctors here tell me regular hystoplasmosis is very common in the Midwest due the High humidity and low wetland environment. Most people go through life never knowing they have contracted it.
Of course I still cave! Why not I already have it.
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