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New species were recently discovered in a lake inside Ayalon Cave in Ramle, Israel. The discovery of our animal_s_ of the month were officially announced in June of 2006. This article is excerpted from a press release courtesy of Hebrew University.

Animals of the Month
Ayalon Cave Ancient Ecosystem in Ramle, Israel

An ancient ecosystem, sheltered for millions of years, was recently discovered by Israeli scientists. At least eight previously unknown species were found within a lake located in Ayalon Cave near the city of Ramle in central Israel.

Located hundreds of feet below a limestone quarry the cave contains tunnels that reach out about a mile and a half. The large cave system is reported to contain both marine and freshwater systems.

Amos Frumkin, team leader and a researcher from Hebrew University in Jerusalem said, "This ia a unique ecosystem that is completely isolated from the surface."

Frumkin is a cave specialist and said that the animals were sheltered from the outside layer of chalk, impenetrable to water or exterior nutrients. All creatures were less than 2 inches long.

The limestone cave is believed to be the second largest in Israel and the animals are unique since they do not depend on the photosynthesis food chain but in a completely self-sustaining and independent ecosystem.

Some concerns have been raised over the hazards to the creatures due to oxygen exposure during discovery. Further exploration will continue and the discovery of additional life forms is anticipated.

Hebrew University issued a press release on May 31, 2006 with the following information:

“The eight species found thus far are only the beginning” of what promises to be “a fantastic bio diversity,” said Dr. Hanan Dimentman of the Hebrew University Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences, another of the researchers involved in the project. He said that he expects further exploration to reveal several other unique life forms.

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.

The underground cave includes an underground lake, in which the crustaceans were found. The lake is part of the Yarkon-Taninim aquifer, one of Israel’s two aquifers, yet is different in temperature and chemical composition from the main waters of the aquifer. The lake’s temperature and salinity indicates that its source is deep underground.

Among the interesting features of the discoveries thus far in the cave is that two of the crustaceans are seawater species and two others are of a types found in fresh or brackish water. This can provide insights into events occurring millions of years ago regarding the history of ancient bodies of water in the region.

In addition to Prof. Frumkin, who heads the unit for cave research in the Department of Geography, and Dr. Dimentman, others involved in the project are Prof. Dov Por and Prof. Aharon Oren of the Institute of Life Sciences, graduate student Israel Naaman, and several others. The Israel Water Commission has assisted in the research, as has Nesher Industries.

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.

About the columnist: Since 1978 Diana L. Guerrero has worked professionally with both wild and domestic animals. Guerrero has been affiliated with, and certified by, a variety of animal programs in the USA and Europe. Based in California, she writes, consults, and speaks. Information on her animal career programs, training courses, and her books {What Animals Can Teach Us about Spirituality (SkyLight Paths, 2003), Blessing of the Animals (Sterling, 2007), Help! My Pet is Driving Me Crazy (Guerrero Ink, 2007), Animal Disaster Preparedness for Pet Owners & Pet Professionals (Guerrero Ink, 2007)} can be found in this web site and in the shop. Questions for Guerrero should be submitted via the blog comments or membership forum.


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