With all of the exploration we’ve accomplished over the past several thousand years, it seems like there’s nothing left to discover. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Take Romania’s Movile Cave, for example, which was only uncovered in 1986. Scientists still haven’t learned everything about this isolated corner of the Earth, but what they do know is absolutely fascinating—even shocking!
Only discovered in 1986, Romania’s Movile Cave has been explored by fewer than 100 people and has been completely untouched by sunlight for more than 5.5 million years.
Those granted special permission to explore the cave find that it contains only half the amount of oxygen that we are accustomed to. It also harbors a high concentration of hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide.
Due to these unique conditions, 48 species of animals—including spiders, water scorpions, isopods, centipedes, and leaches—have been discovered inside the cave, 33 of which can’t be found anywhere else on Earth!
The majority of these animals completely lack pigmentation (due to the lack of sunlight) and eyesight (because they don’t need it). Instead, most of them have developed long antennae and limbs that help them navigate the darkness.
The mystery that still baffles scientists is how the cave became so isolated—and how these creatures were able to get there—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,” said University of East Anglia microbiologist, J. Colin Murrell, in an interview. “They could have simply fallen in and become trapped when the limestone cast dropped, sealing the cave until it was discovered again in 1986.”
With so many questions left to answer, scientists studying the Movile Cave certainly have their work cut out for them. They hope that the more they study, the more they can learn about evolutionary biology—which could mean learning more about the life on Earth in the process!
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