Biologists have hit the jackpot with the find of Movile Cave, a cave located in Romania, near the Black Sea. While they didn’t find Dracula, they did find something even more interesting. The cave has been sealed for an estimated 5.5 million years, meaning that we have an unprecedented look into the way that evolution works without mankind there to assist.
According to BBC Earth, not many people have ever been allowed to see the cave. Less than 100 people have been allowed to see inside the cave, and it has only been discovered for about 30 years. Before then, we had no idea it even existed, and it was only found on accident, when Romania was looking for a new place to build a nuclear power plant. It is not able to be accessed by the public, as it’s inhabitants and under their own natural protection, as well as being guarded by the government. The cave has many shafts and tunnels that make it nearly impossible to access.
If you are ever so lucky as to venture into the cave, you are instantly met with the harsh air, that has nearly half the amount of oxygen as our own air and is poisonous. With high amounts of both carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide, it is a mix that is apt to kill a human being. These are common for it’s environment, however, due to the fact that is has not seen natural light in 5.5 million years. However this has not stopped life from flourishing. Spiders, centipedes, leeches, isopods, etc have been found, with nearly 33 of these species are completely native to this one cave, with no genetic material with the outside world. It’s like a world of it’s own, complete with it’s own ecosystem. Most of the residents are completely blind and have no coloring to their skin, as they don’t need to see and have no need of protection from the sun.
Perhaps one of the most amazing pieces of information we have gleaned from this cave is that it survives nearly entirely on chemosynthetic bacteria, while most systems use photosynthesis. Since there is absolutely no sunlight in this cave, they rely on the chemical reaction from the chemical reactions of sulfide oxidation, in order to harness energy.
While there is still so much to learn about this fascinating cave, we have many more years of research to even begin to understand the beginning of what this cave can tell us about our own evolutionary journey. Who knows what information we can learn from this cave, and what advances can be made.