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."

Voices
voices
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA powerful collection of reportage on Egypt’s cycle of awakening and relapse
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Analyst

£30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable software house is looking ...

Application Support Analyst / Junior SQL Server DBA

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established professional services...

Commercial Litigation

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION SO...

BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried