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The Ultimate Case of Cabin Fever
Posted 2011-06-24 by BLUEiQ Team

A little known but unique cave in Romania named Movile Cave harbors relics of Earth’s past. However, these are not fossils. Various species live there as they did 5.5 million years ago, when the Earth’s climate changed and Romania’s climate changed from tropical to temperate, killing off anything that didn’t live underground.

What makes this cave unique is that it is completely isolated from the Earth’s surface. No other cave on Earth shares this distinct feature. Discovered by accident in 1986 during a construction project, the cave was not explored until the mid 1990s. Only then, with an artificial entrance created, were scientists able to discover the features of this cave and the species that inhabit it. In fact, this cave is so isolated that there were no traces of radioactivity from the Chernobyl incident, even though such material was typically found in Romanian soil.

Forty-seven species were found in the cave, 30 of which were previously unknown. These include water scorpions, spiders, mollusks, worms, and predatory leaches that eat the worms. Every one of them showed reductions in their pigments and eyes due to living in complete isolation from the Earth’s surface with no sunlight at all. They have, however, grown longer legs and antennae for navigation in this completely dark location. Additionally, without sunlight, the food they eat is different than from any other location on Earth. Species at the surface and even those in underground caves typically get their food ultimately from the process of photosynthesis, which eventually makes organic matter available for consumption. However, in this cave, bacteria produce floating mats of organic matter on a lake within the cave that are used for food.

If you ever feel like you never get to enjoy the outdoors, just remember that things could be a whole lot worse! Any current resident of this cave hasn’t had a family member who has seen the light of day since well before humans roamed the Earth. To illustrate this, a species of spider that lives in the cave is over 2,500 miles from it’s nearest relative in the Canary Islands. Needless to say, these guys haven’t gotten out much. Talk about living under a rock!

tags: blog; Movile Cave; unique ecosystem


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