Scientists find an entire ecosystem living off the pages of an 800-year-old manuscript

An Italian manuscript written in 1293 languished in an archive for hundreds of years, when librarians noticed that it had begun to decay strangely. What could cause it to suddenly start turning into pulp? A group of European microbiologists decided to find out. They knew it was being eaten by fungus and bacteria, but they were curious to find out what kinds - and how many. What they discovered was that a single book could play host to an entire ecosystem. They published a paper about their discoveries last year, writing with a touch of elegance:

A library or a single book can be compared to a virgin land that can be reached by some colonizing organisms that behave like pioneer species on a nude soil.

Books can hold worlds in more ways than one.

Read the full article via PLoS Biodiversity (via Brian Mossop)