Thursday, June 01, 2006

A sort of biological Dead Sea scroll.

An Israeli teenager has discovered new waterborne and terrestrial animal species in a cave system at the back of a limestone quarry:
The sealed cavern, dubbed the Ayalon Cave by the scientists, is impermeable to rainwater because of a thick layer of chalk above the roof.

Scientists believe that the cave has been isolated from the outside world for millions of years, creating a unique ecosystem. The temperature of the water inside the cave is 87.8 degrees, 12.6 warmer than surface water, suggesting it was fed by sources deep inside the Earth, scientists said.

"This is the first discovery of terrestrial animals found only in a cave and not on the surface. Ecologically, this is a unique cave unparalleled anywhere else in the world," said Hanan Dimentman of the Hebrew University Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences. "Water, nutrients and animals cannot enter from above. It has been isolated from above for millennia."

Dimentman said there were no plants in the cavern because a lack of sunlight rules out photosynthesis, but he identified several bacteria that serve as the basic food supporting the unique life system.

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