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Scientists Find ‘Bizarre Beasts’ Living in an Isolated Cave for 5 Million Years

Mich Escultura

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The Movile Cave in Romania is just a few miles west of the Black Sea, and it’s been sealed up for about 5.5 million years. And as you can imagine, the inside of the cave and its inhabitants haven’t seen the light of day since human predecessors started walking upright!

The cave was discovered by humans back in 1986 when workers of the Socialist Republic of Romania were looking for a new place to build a nuclear power plant.

The cave was discovered by scientist Cristian Lacsu in an attempt to find a place to build a nuclear power plant.
The cave was discovered by scientist Cristian Lacsu in an attempt to find a place to build a nuclear power plant.

Of course, once they discovered the cave, they quickly realized that it’s not the best place for people to be working in. That’s why it’s been blocked off by authorities and is only accessible with special permission. And as a Tomb Raider-esque twist, the inside of the cave is naturally guarded by a series of vertical shafts and narrow limestone tunnels.

The inside of the cave is naturally guarded by a series of vertical shafts and narrow limestone tunnels.
The inside of the cave is naturally guarded by a series of vertical shafts and narrow limestone tunnels.

Inside the cave, the air contains half the amount of oxygen and is high in carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. And with zero sunlight, the species within the cave have non-vision nor pigment, with long, spindly limbs and antennae to help them navigate in the darkness. Among the 48 creatures discovered in the cave are spiders, water scorpions, pseudoscorpions, centipedes, leeches, and isopods – 33 of which are unique to this one cave.

The spindly creatures within the cave navigate through the use of antennae and their long limbs.
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So how do these creatures survive without sunlight? They rely mostly on chemosynthetic bacteria, which get their carbon and energy directly from chemical reactions like the oxidation of ammonium sulfide.

You may be wondering how these creatures got inside the cave in the first place. “It’s very likely that the bacteria have been there a lot longer than five million years, but that the insects became trapped there around that time,” J. Colin Murrell, a microbiologist from the University of East Anglia, said to BBC Earth,”They could have simply fallen in and become trapped when the limestone cast dropped, sealing the cave until it was discovered again in 1986.”

These creatures could hold the key to further insights into evolutionary biology.
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An unidentified leech
A waterscorpion attacking its crustacean prey.
An unidentified pseudoscorpion

There’s much more to the cave than researchers have discovered. But it’s a huge advantage in helping scientists learn more about evolutionary biology!

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