Tepui – is flat mesas on the Guiana Highlands in South America, particularly in Venezuela.
The language of the Pemon people who live in the Gran Sabana, the word tepui means “House of the Gods” – because they are very high.
Tepui are separate mountains, so they can find a great variety of endemic species of plants and animals, some of which are found only in one tepui.
They are vast towers rising out of the jungles of the Amazon basin.
Tepuis, rocky tabletop mountains isolated by hundreds of metres of steep cliffs, form a unique habitat on their tops and inside their maze of caves. Untouched for millions of years, they host a secret world that has evolved in parallel with its surroundings.
Now, the secrets of the ancient tepui are slowly being revealed, thanks to expeditions led by speleologist Francesco Sauro of the University of Bologna, Italy.
The caves are “a completely different world”, says Sauro. The quartz walls often have a spooky pinkish hue, and organic acids in the water turn the cave streams red.
The speleothems – stalactites and stalagmites – take fantastic forms. Some resemble billowing clouds of smoke; others look like a spray of mineral mushrooms. Exactly how they form is still a mystery.
Many of the peculiar, lumpy, silica speleothems that only occur inside quartzite caves are formed by colonies of microorganisms working together on the bacterial equivalent of a skyscraper.
More Info: newscientist