The lost world

Darkness: What the prehistoric cave looked like before its discovery.

A prehistoric ecosystem, sealed off from the rest of the world for millions of years, has been discovered in a cave in Israel. Animals found in the cave are unknown to science, and include at least eight new species. Located more than 320 feet beneath the surface near the central Israeli town of Ramle, the cavern runs for about one and half miles and contains an underground lake.

The new species found in and around the lake include four crustaceans and four terrestrial creatures. The largest is a two-inch long albino crustacean with a cigar-shaped body, six legs and pincer claws. Oddly, two of the crustaceans are salt-water variety, and two are freshwater species. Scientists think this indicates they arrived from two different sources and at two different times. And because they evolved in an environment of total darkness, all the creatures are blind.

"Every species we examined had no eyes which means they lost their sight due to evolution," said Dr. Hanan Dimentman of the Hebrew University Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences.

Since sunlight never reaches the cave, photosynthesis can't take place so there are no plants in the system. However, bacteria found in the lake are thought to serve as a food source for the life forms.

Dimentman expects further exploration will produce even more new species. "This is the first discovery of terrestrial animals found only in a cave and not on the surface," he said. "Ecologically, this is a unique cave unparalleled anywhere else in the world."

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Ken Attwood BA BSc CBiol MIBiol's picture
Ken Attwood BA BSc CBiol MIBiol says:

What a pity a picture of these unusual crustacea was not posted: it would have made finding this article worthwhile. As it is, I have still learned what darkness looks like: WOW!!! LOL!

posted on Wed, 11/29/2006 - 7:26am
mdr's picture
mdr says:

Sorry about the lack of photos. I probably couldn't locate the copyright owners at the time I posted it. However, a quick search on Google led me to these sites where you can see photos.

San Francisco Chronicle

Information Liberation

I'm sure there are other sites out there with more photos.

posted on Fri, 12/01/2006 - 1:00am

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <h3> <h4> <em> <i> <strong> <b> <span> <ul> <ol> <li> <blockquote> <object> <embed> <param> <sub> <sup>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may embed videos from the following providers vimeo, youtube. Just add the video URL to your textarea in the place where you would like the video to appear, i.e. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pw0jmvdh.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Images can be added to this post.

More information about formatting options