A lost world for Science Tuesday!
About five million years ago, while humans were evolving in Africa, Movile Cave in Romania became cut off from the surface world, leading to a dramatic turn in evolution for its insect populations.
In the late 1980s, the cave was discovered and opened, and now offers scientists a look at a different world, though only some scientists have been allowed in out of fear of destroying the ecosystem’s balance.
With only half the oxygen as the surface atmosphere, the cave’s atmosphere is poisonous, rank with carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide. The air temperature is very warm. These conditions are very similar to what the surface on Earth was like billions of years ago. The ecosystem is based on bacteria that pull carbon from the air without the use of light. The bacteria form slime on water and walls that is eaten by small creatures that are in turn eaten by larger ones, everything in competition.
The cave’s denizens include spiders, water scorpions, centipedes, leeches and more. Most insects evolved to adapt to the darkness by losing their eyes while developing longer legs and antennae.
Learn more at Geek.com here, including some photos of the creatures.