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New bell of the underworld mineral formation found in cenote largest in world

Puerto Morelos, Q.R. — Scientists have discovered a new mineral formation in a Puerto Morelos centoe they say has been forming for thousands of years and is the largest of its kind in the world.

Mexican and German scientists have discovered what they are calling campanas del inframundo or bells of the underworld in a centoe outside Puerto Morelos. The capricious mineral formation is being referred to as unique in Mexico due to its structure.

The find was made at the Zapote cenote, which is located at kilometer 19 of the Ruta de los Cenotes at the municipal seat of Puerto Morelos with the delegation of Leona Vicario.

The find consists of speleothems, which are rock columns or other solid and cohesive materials from the floor of a cavern to the ceiling that are formed over thousands and, sometimes, millions of years. The scientists say the speleothems were formed with the help of bacteria.

The hanging structures have the shape of a trumpet or bell, according to the definition of the team of experts, whose height exceeds two meters. The bell is approximately 80 centimeters at its widest part. According to cenote owner Fátima González, the bells of the underworld are at a depth of between seven and 10 meters.

Jerónimo Avilés Olguín, co-founder of the civil association Instituto de la Prehistoria de América and leader of the team of Mexican scientists, said that it is the first time that the discovery of this type of mineral formation has been documented in Mexico.

He explained that the bells of the underworld have been discovered in caves in Spain, Germany, the Alps and in the United States, but this is a first for Mexico. Avilés Olguín says that due to their size and microbiological origin, this discovery is the largest biothemas in the world.

He explained that after a dating study, they concluded that the oldest layer of the structure was about 4,500 years old, with the most recent layer being about 300 years old.

He said the scientists collected samples of the formations as well as the water that surrounding them. These samples were sent to the University of Heidelberg in Germany to identify the microorganisms. The results show that the formations have grown from the middle of the Holocene a period roughly from 7,000 to 5,000 years ago.

Avilés Olguín explains that about 10,000 years ago, the sea level was 100 meters below the current level, so the caves and cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula were dry. As the temperature of the planet increased, the glaciers melted, raising the water level to what we know today, 4,500 years ago.

Their information concludes that the bells of the underworld grew completely underwater, something unique among the speleothems.