The people that live in the Movile Cave are unlike everyone else. This Romanian cave, located just a few kilometers west of the Black Sea, has been shut for around 5.5 million years. Despite the fact that the air is toxic and terribly humid, this confluence of elements has resulted in a jackpot for scientists.
According to BBC Earth, less than 100 individuals have ever entered the cave. Humans found it in 1986, when employees in the Socialist Republic of Romania were seeking for fresh land to build a nuclear power station. Although the center caverns are naturally “guarded” by a succession of vertical shafts and tiny limestone tunnels, it is now closed off by authorities and only accessible with special authorization.
Once within the cave, the air has half as much oxygen as normal and is heavy in carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. It’s also completely dark and hasn’t seen daylight in at least 5.5 million years.
However, scientists have detected 48 species in this severe habitat. Spiders, water scorpions, pseudoscorpions, centipedes, leeches, and isopods are among the organisms, 33 of which are unique to this cave.
The majority of the organisms in the cave are blind and lack colour. After all, who needs sight or beauty in complete darkness? They’re also a wiry bunch, with extra-long limbs and antennae that aid with navigation in the dark.
As if this planet wasn’t strange enough, it’s one of the few known ecosystems that is dependent on chemosynthetic microorganisms. To generate energy, most ecosystems rely on photosynthesis. However, because there is no natural sunlight in the cave, the bacteria must obtain their energy and carbon directly from chemical processes such as sulfide oxidation or ammonium oxidation.
Scientists are unsure how the animals ended up in the cave and became secluded.
“It’s highly likely that the bacteria have been there for much longer than five million years, but the insects were stuck there about that time,” J. says. According to Colin Murrell, a microbiologist from the University of East Anglia, “They may easily have fallen in and gotten imprisoned when the limestone cast fell, closing the cave until it was rediscovered in 1986.”
Many mysteries still exist deep beneath the Movile Cave. Possibly after just 30 years of knowing it exists, scientists believe there are many more residents to be discovered, some of whom might contain significant insights into evolutionary biology and even the essence of life itself.