Research CommentariesCAVE FORMATION

Determining the Age of What Is Not There

Science  20 Mar 1998:
Vol. 279, Issue 5358, pp. 1874
DOI: 10.1126/science.279.5358.1874

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How old is a cave? This is not an easy question. A cave is not an actual object but is rather the absence of material, and ascertaining the age of what is not there is difficult. In his research commentary, Sasowsky discusses results presented in the same issue by Polyak et al . in which a new strategy has been developed for dating caves created by the dissolving action of acidic ground water in limestone. In particular, the method has been applied to two of the most famous caves in the world: Carlsbad and Lechuguilla caves in New Mexico, USA.