Unknown species found in isolated Israeli caves systems

Eight hitherto unknown species of invertebrate creatures isolated from the outside world for millions of years have been discovered in a unique subterranean ecosystem functioning in a cave in central Israel.

A team of scientists from Hebrew University said yesterday they had discovered the new species of crustaceans and scorpion-like animals in a cave uncovered during rock drilling at a cement quarry near Ramle.

The creatures include an omnivorous blind five-centimetre crustacean which the team have established as the highest in the food chain, capable of devouring other creatures as well as bacteria also found among what the scientists said were "exciting sediments" in the cave.

One of the team, Dr Hanan Dimentman said that the creature had three "relatives" in the Jordan Valley, and in the eastern Mediterranean off the coasts of southern Italy and Libya. But the team said that biomolecular analysis and DNA testing had already established that the crustacean and the other seven species were unique. The species are now being sent to experts in Europe and Israel for naming and classification.

Except for one species of blind scorpion all the creatures, which include both aquatic and terrestrial species, were found alive. But Dr Dimentman, of the university's Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences, said he was confident that living scorpions would soon be discovered. "The eight species found thus far are only the beginning of what promises to be a fantastic biodiversity," he added.

Professor Amos Frumkin of the Hebrew University Department of Geography said the site - which scientists have named the Ayalon Cave - was "unique in the world" and had remained isolated because it was impenetrable to water.

Israel Naaman, a research student, described how he had initially used ropes to get through an underground passage into the cave 100 metres below the quarry close to the main Tel Aviv Jerusalem highway. With its branches, the cave extends over 2.5km before coming upon an underground lake. There Mr Namaan said he discovered a "small shrimp in the water," which prompted the team to carry out further investigation.

The university said yesterday that two of the crustaceans were seawater species while two others are of a type found in fresh or brackish water - suggesting that their ancestors may have had a link with the sea in prehistoric times.

The absence of sunlight in such caves means that plants cannot produce chemical energy by photosynthesis. Instead, life has to depend for its energy on the oxidation of subterranean minerals such as hydrogen minerals and hydrogen sulphide and they are then eaten by larger organisms.

Professor Frunkin said: "This is the most probable source of energy in the cave although the idea has yet to be tested." He showed a slide of large crystal-like deposits in the cave, which he said were unlike the stalagmites and stalactites often found in other caves.

The scientists said the lake was part of the Yarkon-Taninim aquifer, one of Israel's two main aquifers, but was different in temperature and chemical composition from the main waters of the aquifer. They added: "The lake's temperature and salinity indicates its source is deep underground."

More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
peopleSwimmer also charged with crossing double land lines and excessive speeding
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style