'Baby Dragon' Olm Eggs Hatch In Slovenian Cave
After four months, the eggs of olm are hatching. Olms, unique aquatic salamanders that are almost blind, are also called "baby dragons". They have been living in the Slovenian Postojna Cave for a millennia.
The "olm-egg-hatching" episode is a rare, exciting opportunity to see 23 developed eggs coming to life. One egg hatched on May 30 and the other on June 1.
"It is the end of one part of the story and the beginning of a whole new chapter: feeding and living without the egg," said Saso Weldt, who cares for and studies the olms at Postojna Cave.
Even though no one could see the first egg hatch, the entire event was snapped by infrared (IR) camera.
"I was in the cave doing some other biological work," Weldt said. "Since we have all the eggs on an IR camera, we saw that one was missing. Then you rewind and suddenly you realize, something has happened."
The Postojna staff is in joint collaboration with amphibian experts to see that the eggs are cared for meticulously.
These unique creatures were checked by Charles Darwin in his 1859 book "On the Origin of Species." He had noted that the odd and sightless creatures were a classic example of natural selection.
"They're believed to be able to live 100 years or longer, and they can survive without food for up to 10 years," Weldt said. "They have transparent white skin that also covers their eyes, but they don't need to see. They have an incredible sense of smell and hearing and can detect light and electrical or magnetic fields."
After the hatching of the eggs, the experts need to care for the larva and enable them to grow into healthy adults.
"The larva will soon need to be fed, as it does not live in its natural environment where it could feed on its own," the Postojna Cave team said. "We will also need to regularly, on a daily basis, change the water to avoid infection. And if there are several larvae, each of them will need to be in its own aquarium. We will have to set up a proper little nursery for each of them."
"And if all goes well, the baby dragons will grow into adults," they added. "Although they may not breathe fire, this will be the right time for the fireworks."
YouTube/The Red Phoenix