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Summary

Lascaux Cave in France was discovered in 1940. Since being opened to visitors the cave has suffered three major microbial outbreaks. The current problem is the fast dissemination of black stains which are threatening the Palaeolithic paintings. Previous data pointed to the involvement of new fungal species in the formation of black stains on the rock walls and ceiling. However, it appears that there could be other reasons for the formation of different and extensive black stains coating the surface of the clayey sediments. Our analyses reveal that black stains on clayey sediments are mainly produced by Acremonium nepalense, a manganese oxide-depositing fungus, widely distributed in the cave. Thus, in Lascaux Cave, the black stains have a dual origin: on limestone rocks they are mainly produced by the accumulation of fungal melanins, and on clayey sediments by the biogenic deposition of black manganese oxides.