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Scientists Find Ancient Ecosystem In Israeli Cave 105

An anonymous reader writes "Israeli scientists said on Wednesday they had discovered a prehistoric ecosystem dating back millions of years. Scientists were called in and soon found eight previously unknown species of crustaceans and invertebrates similar to scorpions. The cave, which Hebrew University Professor Amos Frumkin said is 'unique in the world,' had been sealed off from the outside world since its surface is situated under a layer of chalk that is impenetrable to water."
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Scientists Find Ancient Ecosystem In Israeli Cave

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  • Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

    by solafide ( 845228 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:49PM (#15437822) Homepage
    Question is, will these new species be able to survive now that they have been opened up to the outside world?
  • by creimer ( 824291 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:50PM (#15437841) Homepage
    If they find a bunch of pulsating eggs in the back of the cave, Chest-busters will definitely be a new species to runaway from.
    • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:55PM (#15437893)
      > If they find a bunch of pulsating eggs in the back of the cave, Chest-busters will definitely be a new species to runaway from.

      Never mind that. The cave has been sealed for 5 million years. It's so dark that everything in it has evolved away from eyesight. We're talking GReat Underground Empire levels of darkness.

      > LOOK
      Nothing to see here. It is dark. It is so dark that you are not merely likely, you are absolutely certain, to be eaten by a grue.

      *** You have died ***

  • by frankie ( 91710 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:52PM (#15437853) Journal
    Well at least it appears the cave doesn't contain some cryptovirus that none of the surface world's immune systems can defeat. Although realistically the opposite is more likely to be true, and everything in the cave gets killed by invading crickets or something.
    • Virii are pretty much always tailored to bypass the protections of one species. The exceptions (bird flu and possibly HIV) are very rare. Since the new species in this cave have been walled off for millions of years - they are pretty much safe from any modern virus infection.

      When it comes to bacteria and parasites, it may be a somewhat different question - since they are genetically much more complex. Still, I'd say it's probably no big deal. That new ecosystem just isn't compatible with ours (for the tim

    • Fatal epidemic zoonoses, that is animal originated diseases that have a fair chance to kill you and that spread, almost exclusively originate with domesticated animals (cattle, pig, chicken, ducks and the like).

      The reason for this is that it takes a long time for the zoonoses to evolve into forms that spread to humans or between humans and to do that there needs to be large concentrations of humans and the originating animals in contact for a long time.

      This is the reason that most epidemic diseases developp
  • by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:53PM (#15437871)
    If they've been in the dark for so long, what have they been eating? You have to get energy into an ecosystem somehow.
    • by Frumious Wombat ( 845680 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:57PM (#15437910)
      Chemolithoautotrophs, probably. Microorganisms that are metabolising compounds from the rocks to get their energy, then everything bigger eats the next step smaller below them. Similar to deep-smoker vent communities.
    • well... the crustaceans ate the scorpions and the scorpions ate the crustaceans. what exactly is the problem? yeah, there is a necessary loss of energy, but that's why there are so few of each type left. another thousand years later and the scientists would have uncovered a perfectly empty cave.
    • You have to get energy into an ecosystem somehow.

      the article fails to mention that they found a little guy screaming "who run bartertown!?!?"
    • As stated in the article it is an Ecosystem. Ecosystems on any scale you look at it are presumably self-sustaining in and of themselves. Just like anywhere else you can have bacteria, fungus, slime molds, etc at the primary level feeding off disolved minerals, then the next step up would be tiny micro-organisms living off the fungus and slime-molds, next step up - insects, small critters feeding off the micro-organisms, etc... so on and so forth.
      • It's not matter that's an issue, it's energy. Most ecosystems are powered by the sun (via photosynthesis), this ecosystem must be powered by something. I think cave systems are either powered by chemical reactions from volcanic vents, etc, or on biomatter entering the system from outside. They claim this one was completely cut off, so it's probably some chemical thing.
        • On the underground volcanos the start of the cycle is some bacteria that metabolize the hydrogen sulfide and tend to grow in clumps. Little shimp come along and scrape that off rocks, making bigger shrimp. Oh, and everything else that falls down dead from the volcano, of course.

    • by jd ( 1658 )
      If they're being kept in the dark, then they're feeding off 24-hour news.
    • That's how the cave was discovered. The critters were getting hungry and called out for pizza delivery.

  • stran9e (Score:5, Informative)

    by packetmon ( 977047 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:55PM (#15437892) Homepage
    "Every species we examined had no eyes which means they lost their sight due to evolution," said Dimantman. How do the scientists know that considering the so called blind scorpion was dead and the others were live. Perhaps eyes looked differently and evolved into what they now expect. For all they know those creatures could have had some motion imaging sensors that were eyes. Anyhow here is a picture of the scorpion []. What that article also failed to mention was that all but one scorpion were found alive:

    The invertebrate animals found in the cave - four seawater and freshwater crustaceans and four terrestial species - are related to but different from other, similar life forms known to scientists. The species have been sent to biological experts in both Israel and abroad for further analysis and dating. It is estimated that these species are millions of years old. Also found in the cave were bacteria that serve as the basic food source in the ecosystem.

    The animals found there were all discovered live, except for a blind species of scorpion, although Dr. Dimentman is certain that live scorpions will be discovered in further explorations and also probably an animal or animals which feed on the scorpions. nown_Prehistoric_Species_Discovered_In_Israel_Cave .html []
  • They were cut off from light for so many years and 'de-evolved' their eyes.
  • good on them (Score:4, Insightful)

    by johansalk ( 818687 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @03:02PM (#15437961)
    The quarry men who knew to call the scientists.
  • by Haberdasher ( 632954 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @03:18PM (#15438119) [] It's 2-3 times longer than the wire service story and answers the 'what they're eating' question and others.
  • There is a picture of a scorpion linked on this thread []

  • O2 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @03:50PM (#15438369)

    Even crustaceans breathe oxygen and expel CO, so what transformed oxygen to O2?
    • Microbes, maybe? I wonder if it's really completely sealed off from the outside world. There may be "vents" that lead to open air. Still (as I understand it) would have to have either some O2 creating organism or some way to circulate the air... Multiple vents? If they are up high enough, such creatures would probably not be able to reach it while still allowing oxygen to enter and flow.
    • Re:O2 (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Blind plants?
  • by CODiNE ( 27417 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @03:54PM (#15438404) Homepage
    Scorpions? Long passageways? If you find a Mayan temple down there DO NOT GO INSIDE.
    • Score 4: Informative? Is anyone else surprised this would be rated as informative rather than funny? I guess some slashdot readers sat back after reading this and went "Wow, he's totally right. That would be bad." Anyway, I thought it was funny.
  • by Starker_Kull ( 896770 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @04:32PM (#15438752)
    "The cave, which Hebrew University Professor Amos Frumkin said is 'unique in the world,' had been sealed off from the outside world since its surface is situated under a layer of chalk that is impenetrable to water."

    Sealed off from the outside world, probably dark and dirty in that cave, with mysterious life forms growing within. Sounds like a typical /.ers house to me.



  • Interesting how the scorpions are completely white without any distinct markings, etc. In fact, I believe I've seen other creatures that live in no-light or low-light conditions that were all-white as well

    While the debate that the 'dead' scorpion was blind due to evolution may be one way to think about it, how about the color of the creatures found (so far I've only seen scorpions). Do creatures that live in no-light situations evolve to be colourless as colour is not useful without light? Does this show
    • "To me, it seems to show that evolution works in a fashion (though to those that argue, it does not prove or disprove that men could come from fish or monkeys... whatever your opinion along those longs)"

      Opinions are silly. Evidence says there is no serious argument.
    • I believe the general theory is that generating pigmentation has a certain cost to it, however small; therefore, over time, and in a lightless environment where they convey absolutely no benefit, the genes devoted to wasting that part of the organisms time and energy are either shut off or put to better use.

      I could be wrong though, it could really be about the guy who designed them couldn't be bothered to finish the job so swept them under the proverbial rug. Which would also explain why so many caves ha

    • The while colouration of species that don't live in light may have more to do with preventing heat loss. Black things absorb and radiate heat very well, which is why heatsinks are black. White radiates and absorbs heat relatively poorly. If you live in a cave with no heat sources, what colour do you want to be?
    • It looks more like a white crayfish [] than a scorpion to me.
    • Re:White scorpions? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Valdrax ( 32670 )
      Do creatures that live in no-light situations evolve to be colourless as colour is not useful without light? Does this show that other creatures in light-available areas develop pigments etc to serve a function based on their environment?

      Yes, and yes. Pigmentation in water crustaceans is often a matter of camoflage. Producing these pigments has a metabolic cost as does producing eyes. When they are no longer needed for survival, the very slight pressure to conserve energy overwhelms the now missing press
      • What would be interesting is if after exposing a few generations to the sun they started being hatched with eyes again.
        • Re:White scorpions? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Profound ( 50789 )
          It would depend on how the eyes were removed. If it was the equivalent of /* createEye() */ then it wouldn't take much to evolve back. If it was a gradual reduction in power until the eye was effectively useless, then it would have to re-evolve all the way back again.
    • > Do creatures that live in no-light situations evolve to be colourless as colour is not useful without light?

      Apparently goldfish will turn white if you keep them in the dark for long enough.

      I can't cite any sources on this, and can't be bothered to even google it.

      I read it somewhere when I was a kid, and it sounded reasonable.

      Maybe the MythBusters could deal with it.

  • He added in that regard that he is hopeful that the planning authorities will enable the company to operate in alternate areas in order to help preserve the scientific site.

    Alternate area to operate in, under sketchy pretenses of aiding science? In Israel? Of course we do! How about a lovely river bank?
  • So many people misuse the statement "millions of years old" when talking about living organisms.. They'd be long dead if they are millions of years old.. They may have diverged from their closest 'outside the cave' ancestors millions of years ago, but this doesn't mean that they are millions of years old.. Evolution never stops, not even in dark/damp caves.. These organisms had evolved and adapted to their environment: the dark, damp, enclosed cave.. Some have adapted by losing sight (due to lack of use), w
    • True, but in a small closed ecosystem with little to no variance in conditions you will find that speciation comes to pretty much a complete stop once all major niches are filled. At that point, new minor mutations are unlikely to have enough of a benefit to help out compete the existing population.

      While evolution may only have slowed down remarkably, in such an environment we might choose to be a little inaccurate and say it has 'stopped' because no noticable change has occured for [insert really long tim
  • And show it live on pay per view. Goddam hippies. Tom
  • We just need some scientist in San Diego to upload the brains of these new crustaceans into computers so they can hack into the Moscow Windows NT user group, then get in touch with Manfred. He can find them jobs in deep space.

    If you have no idea what I mean, try: []

  • I don't have a link to support this, but there was also another eco-system like this discovered in Dobrogea region of Romania, a few years ago. The species were as in this case pretty strange and rare.
  • I just hope those Scorpions aren't too agressive. Check out the details on The Cave over at IMDB if you have no clue what movie I'm talking about. []
  • My family used to go to a medium sized lake in the U.S.(not sure of location) for our family reunion. On one of those trips we were on the shore of the lake digging in the sand and we found a white no eyed creature that looks extremely close to the same picture of the animal found in this achient ecosystem. We released it and 10 minutes later or so I was sitting on the sand underwater and was stung or bitten by the same thing we released. Am I just mistaken or is there something that lives in central U.S. t

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