A Cave-Dwelling Salamander Didn’t Move for Seven Years

By Theresa Machemer/Smithsonianmag.com

Following stories of dragons, naturalist Janez Vajkard Valvasor traveled to Vrhnika, a town now in Slovenia, in 1689. After heavy rainfall, animals resembling baby dragons were swept out of nearby caves; could this be evidence that a mama dragon was lurking inside, perhaps? Not quite. Those baby dragons were actually olm salamanders, which max out at about 12 inches long and live to be 100 years old.

Olms are a bit magical though. Lacking both pigmentation and eyesight, they are super-sensitive the feeling of light on their skin. Even more fascinating, they can sense both electric and magnetic fields. They are also pretty lazy.

According to new research published in the Journal of Zoology, one olm spent seven years without leaving its favorite spot.

“They are really good swimmers,” Eötvös Loránd University zoologist Gergely Balázs tells Science News’ Jake Buehler. Olms could “move around and try different spots to see if the neighbor is nicer, or there’s more prey… And they just don’t do it.”

Balázs and his colleagues began studying olms in the caves of eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina more than ten years ago. After several dives, the researchers began to suspect that some olms hadn’t budged. In 2010, the researchers labeled seven olms…


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