5MY isolated ecosystem found in Israeli cave


TONMO Supporter
Staff member
Mar 8, 2004
I think this is likely enough of interest to folks around here that it's "closely related to cephs"-- link It has critters cephs would eat... Anyway, isolated ecosystems rock! I wish I could report that it had living ammonites so I could be more on-topic, but the article only mentions arthropods...

see also (which describes some bacteria and "single celled organisms" as well, aparently they're sulfur-eaters or something)

and this one too
Entombed in a cave for ~ 5MY .... and supposedly without external input (sealed for the duration)! This rocks!

A quote from the second link, "Four species of invertebrates were found in the lake inside the cave; the other four species inhabit the cave’s terrain. The lake is a habitat for bacteria that synthesize the sulfur in the water as a source for energy, thus creating the nutritional infrastructure for the cave’s aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.." I would never have thought that a 'lake ecosystem' could sustain the terrestrial ecosystem. This would be fascinating if it could (I wonder what density of animals we have in that lake!).

The second link has another interesting piece of information. "So far we have identified eight species of invertebrates, most of which were not known before." The significance here (in the event this is a closed ~ 5MY-old ecosystem) is that those species that are 'not new to science' must occur elsewhere .... and that means within the 'sealed ecosystem' they have remained unchanged in 'morphology' (inferred genetic), which is an amazing example of stasis. It also means some species have changed during this time, showing that change occurs at different rates in different groups.

The final link has a heart-warming concluding statement! "Yoel Feldschue, director-general of Nesher Industries, said today that Nesher will preserve the ecological ecosystem which has been revealed in the center of its quarry in order to avoid any damage to the important findings there. 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." If only we had a few more fisherfolk with this mentality!
I saw this a few days ago and have a few questions.

None of the news articles refer to a peer-reviewed publication...Did the researchers issue a press release of the finding before publishing a rapid communique?

That leads me to be a little skeptical of the discovery and I wonder if they will have some big hurdles to get past when it is time to publish.

Oh, sorry, was listening to something by JibJab....contaminating a 5my unique, underground, isolated, sealed off, self-contained ecosystem... barbarians...
I was just catching the end of a special on The Science Channel involving a cafe dive into a chemo-based subterranean ecosystem. Indeed, there was salt water below, fresh water flowing out of an underground waterway above, and an opaque layer of sulfur dioxide providing a cloudy buffer-zone. It was home to amphipods and other white crustaceans, as well as numerous forms of chem-based plantlife and colonial bacteria draping-down everywhere like soft, waving stalactites . Eerie and fascinating.
There was an extensive New Scientist article on similar subterranean ecosystems in Australia last year - these seem to be considerably older than the Isreali ones, but are in caverns too small for people to enter.
(The full article doesn't seem to be available online)
Life underground, down under
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