GALVESTON, Texas Discoveries made in some underwater caves by Texas A&M University at Galveston researchers in the Bahamas could provide clues about how ocean life formed on Earth millions of years ago and perhaps give hints of what types of marine life could be found on distant planets and moons.

Tom Iliffe, professor of marine biology at the Texas A&M University at Galveston campus, and graduate student Brett Gonzalez, of Trabuco Canyon, Calif., examined three blue holes in the Bahamas and found that layers of bacterial microbes exist in all three, but each cave had specialized forms of such life and at different depths, suggesting that microbial life in such caves is continually adapting to changes in available light, water chemistry and food sources. Their work, also done in conjunction with researchers from Penn State University, has been published in Hydrobiologia.

Blue holes are so named because from an aerial view, they appear circular in shape with different shades of blue in and around their entrances.

There are estimated to be more than 1,000 such caves in the Bahamas, the largest concentration of blue holes in the world.

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