Saturday, February 20, 2010

The mystery in the Lost World of Movile Cave

The inhabitants of Movile caves are blind virtually colorless and live in an almost un breathable atmosphere. The accidental discovery of this subterranean “Island of life”

Cut off from the rest of the world for hundreds of thousands of years, affords biologists an unprecedented opportunity to study how animals adopt to hostile living condition.

In1986 Rumanian Speleologist Christian Lascu was probing a cave system in the Dohruja region of eastern Rumania, wearing a protective suit; he plunged into a pool of sulphurous water and worked his way along a passage in the lime stone rock, When he surfaced in a muddy cavity, he could hardly believe his eyes; in an atmosphere heavy with sulphur and containing almost no oxygen, he found an extraordinary animal world .Luscu saw spiders, isopods, other crustaceans, millipedes and worms. Each of a kind not found any where else on the earth. The cave explorer had discovered Movile Cave an oasis of life cutoff from the rest of the world for thousands of years.

As news if Lascu’s discovery spread biologists from all over the world began to assemble to the site. Tests determined that subterranean cavity, situated beneath a layer of about 25m of lime stone was lined with a thick layer of clay which had cut it off from the surface for at least 5, 00,000. The cave dwellers had been isolated since primeval times, forming a closed system of life.

The main question was how the animals got there. According to geological evidence, the cave was created when a crest region-easily eroded lime stone layers- collapsed during an earth quake about five million years ago. It is possible that the inhabitants of Movile were trapped in the cave by the sudden geological event. By that time the climate was very different and Europe was covered with tropical forests. The human species had not yet developed bur that was already a rich and varied animal world. It is quite possible that the creatures of Movile cave included some of these archaic organisms. Other organisms were able to enter the cave until around 500000 years ago at which time Movile was sealed off by a thick layer of clay. Today about sixty species exists there, about half of which ere previously unknown to science.

Over Million of years, the community had to adapt to the difficult conditions in the cave. Most of the animals are white or very pale in color, for their skins have lost ability to produce pigments. Deprived of the space to fly so the insects lost their wings. While in the complete darkness beetles and spiders went blind.

One of the most astonishing things about this unique, micro world is the animal’s diet, because there is no plant to eat, so called sulphur Bactria has become the basic food. The bacteria form a jelly like film on the surface of the water and serve as a breeding ground for fungi. The fungi are consumed by insects that would normally live on worms and plants. They are in turn become the prey of carnivores animals, and so the food chain is closed again.

So far it is unclear how the animals successfully adopted to the sulphurous atmosphere which contains almost no oxygen. Special metabolic adaptations must have evolved but the processes involved require more study.


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