New Centipede Discovered on Top of Food Chain in Hellish Ecosystem of a Sulfur-Soaked Romanian Cave

Cryptops speleorex

A photo of the newly discovered species (Cryptops speleorex), the largest inhabitant of the Movile cave (Romania) known to date. Credit: Mihai Baciu, GESS LAB, Mangalia

Deemed to never see the light of the day, a new species of endemic, troglobiont centipede was discovered by an international team of scientists in the Romanian cave Movile: a unique underground ecosystem, where the oxygen in the air might be half of the amount of what we’re used to, yet the sulfurous abounds; and where the animal life only exists because of chemosynthetic bacteria feeding on carbon dioxide and methane.

This hellish ecosystem — where breathing alone could be lethal for most of us — seems to have finally crowned its king. At a size of between 46 and 52 mm in length, the centipede Cryptops speleorex is the largest of the cave’s inhabitants known to date. The new species is described in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal ZooKeys.

Already isolated from the outside world several millions years ago during the Neogene, the Movile cave has been drawing the attention of scientists ever since its unexpected discovery in 1986 by Romanian workers, searching for locations suitable for building a power plant in the southeastern parts of the country.

Scientists Exploring Movile Cave Romania

The scientists exploring the Movile cave (Romania). Credit: Mihai Baciu, GESS LAB, Mangalia

Surprisingly enough, despite its harsh living conditions, the Movile ecosystem was soon found to harbor a diverse and unique fauna, characterized by exceptional species endemism and specific trophic links. So far, the cave has been known to give home to the troglobiont water scorpion, liocranid and nesticid spiders, cave leeches and certainly many more yet to be discovered.

In fact, it was long thought that this unique underground ecosystem was also inhabited by surface-dwelling species widespread in Europe. Convinced that this scenario is highly unlikely, scientists Dr. Varpu Vahtera (University of Turku, Finland), Prof Pavel Stoev (National Museum of Natural History, Bulgaria) and Dr. Nesrine Akkari (Museum of Natural History Vienna, Austria) decided to examine a curious centipede, collected by speleologists Serban Sarbu and Alexandra Maria Hillebrand, during their recent expedition to Movile.

“Our results confirmed our doubts and revealed that the Movile centipede is morphologically and genetically different, suggesting that it has been evolving from its closest surface-dwelling relative over the course of millions of years into an entirely new taxon that is better adapted to life in the never-ending darkness,” explain the researchers.

“The centipede we described is a venomous predator, by far the largest of the previously described animals from this cave. Thinking of its top rank in this subterranean system, we decided to name the species Cryptops speleorex, which can be translated to the “King of the cave,” they add.

Reference: “Five million years in the darkness: A new troglomorphic species of Cryptops Leach, 1814 (Chilopoda, Scolopendromorpha) from Movile Cave, Romania” by Varpu Vahtera, Pavel Stoev and Nesrine Akkari, 16 December 2020, ZooKeys.
DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.1004.58537

14 Comments on "New Centipede Discovered on Top of Food Chain in Hellish Ecosystem of a Sulfur-Soaked Romanian Cave"

  1. BIG IF TRUE

  2. The centipede is a predator.

  3. Two hollow Schumers

  4. Trumpschlong Stumpschlong | December 16, 2020 at 5:36 pm | Reply

    Despite it’s impressive length – it’s a nimble navigator.

    #Trump 2020

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  5. This centipede is a predator

  6. I never stood a chance

  7. Stacey Abrams if true

  8. Are you sure it’s not six million?

  9. Sulfur filled dark cave with no inhabitants? Fatal to humans? Maybe It should be named Hillaryon Clitonaneptis

  10. Emanuel Macaroni | December 16, 2020 at 11:31 pm | Reply

    “…Surprisingly enough, despite its harsh living conditions, the Movile ecosystem was soon found to harbor a diverse and unique fauna, characterized by exceptional species endemism and specific trophic links. So far, the cave has been known to give home to the troglobiont water scorpion, liocranid and nesticid spiders, cave leeches and certainly many more yet to be discovered..” — Sounds like the Paris Suburbs

  11. Sekar Vedaraman | February 18, 2021 at 5:46 pm | Reply

    Interesting

    Looks like All Life does not seek or need the solar rays for survival.

    What happens when you expose the centipide to sunlight and oxygen rich environment with increasing levels of carbon-di-oxide? May give us some clues on how to survive on future Earth where we paractice ” Burn Baby Burn” policies!

  12. Sekar Vedaraman | February 18, 2021 at 10:02 pm | Reply

    Sometimes wisdom comes from the strangest of places. Would you believe WhatsApp —the MaxWell Smart of Socail Media ! Yes 99!

    Was thinking about the Centipede at the top of the food chain and dozed off. After I woke up I washed my face and looked at my WhatsApp messageslike all 66 year Old Kids do now a day! Reproducing some extracts of the message received below from wise young lady who is also 60 plus:

    There is a beautiful Sufi Parable . Worth reading.

    ” One day the Sun and the Cave stuck up a Conversation. The Sun had difficulty understanding what ‘dark’ meant and the Cave didnt get the hang of what ” Light and Clear” meant , so they decided to change places.

    The Cave went upto the Sun and said ” Ah this beyond wonderful. Now come down and see where I have been living”. The Sun went down to the Cave and said “Gee, I dont see any difference”.

    When the Sun went down ,it took its light and even the darkest corners were illuminated. That is why the Sun couldn’t see any difference.

    There is quite an old book that says , ” The enlightened ones can never be sent to hell or pushed into darkness. They carry their heaven on their shoulders and head All the time”.

    We thought that heaven is a place where we are supposed to go . Perhaps it is a state of mind we are supposed to achieve.

    If you are full of darkness within, full of negetivity, fear and doubt, you become a Cave unknowingly. It’s hell within and no matter how much you accumulate you will still remain hollow.

    If you are illuminated like the sun from within, then the darkness of the cave wouldn’t matter , even if it has remained in the dark for five million years like the Centipide in the Scientific finding above.

    Even in the worst of circumstances, the darkness of the cave wouldn’t matter. You will still find an answer and blessing somewhere and ask the Rabbi to Bless the new Knowledge with insignt and wisdom.

    You willbe carrying your Heaven within you and as the Saviour said “The Kingdom Of God is within you”.

    Making the world a little better. Reconciling Scientific Progress with Religion! Whatever that Religion may be , even if it is staunch belief in the non-existence of a creator!

    Coincidence? Superstition? Maybe? or as the Miserly grinch said to the kids ” Bah , Humbug!”.

    Happy Easter to believers…. and also the nay-sayers. The Easter egg doesn’t leave egg yolk on your face! Wisdom from the mouth of a wise little kid!

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