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Highlights

  • Kahf Kharrat Najem Cave (United Arab Emirates) harbors a bat colony with guano
  • Yellowish stalactites of urea and urea-derived substances are studied in this paper
  • Allantoin is a urea byproduct, reported here for the first time in a cave
  • Rare sulfates (aphthitalite, alunite) and phosphates (possibly archerite-biphosphammite) are present
  • Extremely dry conditions explain the crystallization of these very soluble minerals

Abstract

Kahf Kharrat Najem Cave is a small cave in United Arab Emirates (UAE) that hosts a bat colony which is the source of guano deposits and peculiar centimeter-long yellowish stalactites. The mineralogy and geochemistry of these deposits were analyzed using powder X-ray diffraction (XRD), energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopic microanalysis (EDX), scanning electron microscope (SEM), and stable isotope composition (δ13C and δ15N). Urea CO(NH2)2 was found to be the main compound of these stalactites, while allantoin C4H6N4O3 was found to be an accessory urea byproduct. This paper is the first to mention allantoin in a cave environment. We also identified rare sulfate minerals (aphthitalite, alunite) and phosphates that probably correspond to the archerite-biphosphammite series. The occurrence of these rare bat-related minerals is due to the extremely dry conditions in the cave, which accounts for the extraordinary preservation of the guano deposits and allows for the crystallization of these very soluble minerals.

DOI

https://doi.org/10.5038/1827-806X.46.1.2001

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