33 New Species Found In A Poisonous Cave Untouched By Humanity For Five Million Years

By | June 22, 2020

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(Vassant Valley School Science Magazine)

Let's go back about 5.5 million years, about the time that the latest common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees roamed the Earth and 33 species of insects and other creepy crawlies made their way into a small cave just southeast of Romania. Next to the Black Sea and the Bulgarian border, the Movile Cave has been shut away by a limestone slab for more than five million years. In that time, it became poisonous to humans even as it provided a habitat to creatures that don't exist anywhere else on Earth. Spiders, scorpions, and all manner of strange insects thrive in Movile Cave, all thanks to a dense soup of bacteria.

Found By Accident

It's likely that Movile Cave would still be closed up if workers in communist Romania hadn't been trying to find a place to construct a power plant in 1986. As the workers tested the ground at the end of the Cold War, they came across the strange cave. Romanian scientist Cristian Lascu was the first person to make the 65-foot descent into the cave, kept company only by the headlamp on his helmet. After scaling the narrow limestone caverns, Lascu came to an underground lake inside of a cavern, where most of Movile's inhabitants make a home for themselves.

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Nowhere Else On Earth

For a small cave in southern Romania, Movile is absolutely popping off with life. As of 2015, 48 distinct species lived inside the cave, 33 of which don't exist anywhere else on the planet. The evolution of these species have taken some strange turns in such a limited environment: Most inhabitants of Movile Cave are born without eyes, they're all nearly translucent, and their appendages and antennae are extra long in order to help them get around in a world that's completely dark.