A rare event occurred these days inside Postojna cave, Slovenia where hundreds of people gathered to witness the birth of salamander babies which almost look like little dragons.
This species of salamander is also known as olm, an ancient underwater animal that breeds once in ten years and can live up to 100 years. The rare phenomenon was caught on live camera thanks to the efforts of scientists.
According to the researchers, only two baby olms manage to hatch from 500 eggs in nature, despite every method used to increase the rating success until now. However, the team of scientists hopes to see 23 healthy olms in the following weeks.
This species of salamander is usually found in the caves of Balkan rivers. One of the most famous is the Postojna cave, situated 30 miles southwest of Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital. Olms are endangered, thus protected by law.
This week’s event has drawn many tourists because it is one of the few ever human-controlled environments with the purpose of supporting the breed of such a rare species. Thanks to this breeding program, the enigmatic olm has become a point of interest for many people as it is a national symbol and the former emblem of Slovenia’s currency before the introduction of the euro.
While ‘baby dragons’ are the main topic for tourists and locals, a few centuries ago people were afraid to approach the cave as they believed that fire- breathing dragons lived inside it.
Olms are blind animals with acute sensory receptors for movement and smell which help them to hunt for prey, such as snails and crabs (in the dark) and to be aware of intruders. In addition to this, this small salamander can live up to ten years without any food.
Scientists have previously tried to breed olms. Unfortunately, it is a tough process. A 2013 attempt failed and no eggs were fertilized at Postojna. Out of 64 eggs laid in January 2016, twenty of them survived, with their hearts beating and functional gills.
Moreover, researchers will double their efforts in the future to understand more about olms. Hopefully, scientists will develop more effective programs in the future that will ensure a successful breeding of this unique salamander species.