Postojna, 1 June – Four months of waiting paid off when an egg of a rare cave olm hatched in the world famous Postojna Cave. The phenomenon is rarely witnessed by people, but this time, it has been captured on infra red camera.
“Our first dragon literally shot itself out of the egg in a single attempt,” Postojnska jama, the operator of the cave, said in a press release on Wednesday.
Olms, the blind salamander popularly referred to in Slovenia as human fish but also lovingly known as Slovenian dragons, are a rare and mysterious species living in deep caves throughout the Balkan that are often inaccessible.
When an adult olm laid eggs in an aquarium in the Postojna Cave exactly four months ago, scientists flocked to the site to witness what had hitherto been observed only a few times given that the olm reproduces only about twice every decade.
The animal ended up laying 64 eggs, of which 23 were designated as viable. The likelihood of a successful hatching was seen as very small: in nature it is estimated that only one in 250 eggs hatch.
Biologists took special precautions to protect the eggs. They removed all but the parent olm from the aquarium and shaded the tank to recreate cave-like conditions.
“We took care of the eggs non-stop, observing them, connecting scientific findings with our own experience…We had to take decisions nobody had taken before. Everything was new,” Postojnska jama said. The hatching of the first larva is a landmark event, but the challenges are far from over. The larva, removed from its natural environment, will have to be fed. The water will be replaced every day to prevent infection.
The biologists will also be keeping a close eye on the remaining 22 viable eggs. If more larvae hatch, each one will be placed in a separate aquarium.