We all know that the planet is full of creatures that at first sight might seem otherworldly, to say the least. Some are simply awe-inspiring, like the blue dragon sea slug, while other are just unsettling, like the anglerfish. Most live at the bottom of the ocean, so we might assume that there are even more that we don’t know about.
But the land offers its own share of strange creatures. Some are creepy, goose bumps inducing critters, like the naked mole rat and the star-nosed mole, while others are funny because of their weird proportions, like the gerenuk and the maned wolf. Some, meanwhile, are simply reminiscent of fantasy creatures, like the dragon whose eggs are about to hatch in a Slovenian cave.
Of course, it’s not actually a dragon – it’s a measly salamander. But this tiny critter has so many strange things surrounding it that it’s not hard to understand why the locals thought it was a dragon when it was discovered, in the 17th century.
According to Sašo Weldt, a biologist studying the strange creatures,
People had never seen it and didn’t know what it was. During the winter time, clouds of fog often rose from the cave, so they came up with stories of a dragon breathing fire from the cave, and they thought the olms were its babies.
The olm, as the salamander is called, is extremely reclusive. Living all their life in caves, the creatures have evolved to be blind, as the light doesn’t shine so often in the depth of the caves where they live. To make up for that, they have super sensitive hearing, the ability to hunt by detecting the faint electric fields in the bodies of other creatures, and since it’s amphibious, it also has gills.
Further adding to the legendary air about them, the olms can live for over a century, and can even survive without food for about a decade. They reproduce once every six or seven years, and lay about 55 eggs. Most eggs don’t hatch, however, as they are usually eaten by other olms. Despite their truly mythical behaviors, the creatures only grow to sizes between seven and ten inches.
As the teams of biologists are examining the translucent eggs laid in the Slovenian cave, they are also keeping an eye out for other animals, so as to make sure that eggs are hatched. They’re not even allowing the mother to get too close until the baby dragons are ready to come out.
Image source: Flickr