Alexa Movile Cave: Mysterious dark-ranch of 5.5 m yrs old insects

Dhaka, Friday   18 October 2019

Akash

Movile Cave: Mysterious dark-ranch of 5.5 m yrs old insects

 Dhrubo Ekramul daily-bangladesh.com

 Published: 01:26 PM, 16 September 2019   Updated: 04:30 PM, 16 September 2019

Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

Movile Cave, the cave, which was absorbed in darkness about 5.5 million years. It was discovered in 1986 on the Romanian seaside, where the evolution of life has taken place in a manner completely different from the rest of the world.

 

Movile Cave: Cristian-lascu

Movile Cave is known as ‘Peștera Movile’ in Romania. The cave is placed near Mangalia, Constanța County of South-Eastern Romania, which is about a few kilometers away from the Black Sea coast. The place was discovered by Cristian Lascu in 1986 at the bottom of an artificial shaft dug for geological investigations.

 

Movile Cave in 2010, by microbiologist Rich Boden

Since then the cave has remained sealed by the Romanian authorities. Less than 100 people were allowed inside Movile. Because the journey into the cave is extremely hazardous.

In 2010, microbiologist Rich Boden, from the University of Warwick in Coventry of UK, was the 29th person who entered the cave. He said, "It's pretty warm, and very humid so it feels warmer than it is, and of course with a boiler suit and helmet on that doesn't help."

 

NASA scientists in Movile cave

The cave is unique because of the chemosynthesis system by which organisms have survived. Here it works in the absence of oxygen, by oxidation of mineral substances. Often NASA scientists compare the Cave environment to the planet Mars.

Oxygen level is very low in the air of Movile. It contains just 10% oxygen rather than the usual 20%. Without breathing apparatus, you would soon feel a headache. Visitors can hardly stay there for 5 or 6 hours before their kidneys pack in.

To explore the rest of the cave, you must dive into the lake and navigate narrow underwater passageways and squeezing through tiny gaps in the rock before emerging into airspaces called air bells.

 

Insects living in the Movile cave

But within this rough environment in the absence of light, scientists have so far identified 48 species. Among the creatures, there exist an array of spiders, water scorpions, pseudoscorpions, centipedes, leeches, and isopods. But the most interesting thing is 33 out of 48 are totally unique.

Their characteristics are also unique to any other creature in the world. Most of the creatures in the cave have no vision and have lack pigment. They are also suitable to live in the pitch darkness, with extra-long limbs and antennae that help them navigate in the darkness.

The ecosystem relies entirely upon chemosynthetic bacteria. Because it extracts carbon from the air without the aid of light. The most numerous bacteria use carbon dioxide, and others get their carbon from methane. The bacterial film on the water and walls is where all the nutrients enter this ecosystem, and it’s the only known example of such a system. Small animals eat the slime, and larger animals eat them.

According to the speleologists, the worse the air gets inside, the more crawling invertebrate animals exist there. The temperature of the sulfurous water that emerges from under the cave is a constant 21 degrees Celsius. But climbing down the narrow limestone clay tunnels means one as to bear a 25 ºC temperature dressed up in a particular suit. Only about 30 scientists have descended in this mysterious cave from 1986 until now.

Scientists are interested in the animals in the cave, of course, but the bacteria could provide hints to how life worked when Earth was young. With the high heat, toxic air, and low light, conditions are very similar to Earth billions of years ago. Some are also exploring the idea of repurposing these bacteria to fight global warming, as carbon dioxide and methane are the biggest culprits.

Speleologists say that the worse the air gets inside, the more crawling invertebrate animals there are. The temperature of the sulfurous water that emerges from under the cave is a constant 21 degrees Celsius. But climbing down the narrow limestone clay tunnels means one as to bear a 25 ºC temperature dressed up in a particular suit. However, this still doesn't explain how the animals in the cave survive. Tests have shown that the water flowing in does not contain any food particles.

Almost 34 years after its discovery, Movile Cave remains perhaps the most isolated ecosystem on the planet. It surely has many more secrets to give up. Hopefully, by discovering here more, our science will be more enriched.

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