Scientists exploring the world’s deepest cave say they’ve identified a previously unknown species of beetle living in its depths, proof that new discoveries still wait beneath the earth.
The new beetle species, Duvalius abyssimus, was discovered in the Western Caucasus region of Russia in the Krubera cave, which is at least 7,000 feet deep. Even getting from its entrance to its deepest explored point requires researchers to don diving gear to get through underground chambers flooded with water.
Researchers Ana Sofia Reboleirra of the University of Aveiro in Portugal and Vicente M. Ortuño of the University of Alcalá in Spain, writing in the journal Xootoaxa, described their findings.
“The new species of cave beetle is called Duvalius abyssimus,” said Ortuño. “We only have two specimens, a male and a female. Although they were captured in the world’s deepest cave, they were not found at the deepest point.”
Cave beetles are one of the most iconic species found in subterranean habitats. They were historically the first living organisms described by science that are adapted to the conditions of hypogean or subterranean life. The Duvalius genus is a successful colonizer of the Earth’s depths. The majority of species have a hypogean lifestyle and live in caves.
“The new species’ characteristics indicate that it is moderately adapted to life underground,” Ortuño said. “Proof of this is that they still have eyes, which are absent in the highly specialized cave species.”
The cave, located in the Arabika Massif in the Western Caucasus, is over 21,140 meters deep, and is widely considered to be the “Everest of the Caves” by scientists and researchers.
The entrance of the Krubera Cave is 2,240 meters above sea level and 15 kilometers from the Black Sea.
Although difficult to reach, they offer opportunities for science to push the boundaries of what is known about life deep underground, the researchers say.
“The discovery of the new beetle provides important data on species that co-exist in these almost unknown ecosystems, even more so when they are found in a geographical area that is very difficult to access, such is the case with this cave,” Ortuño said.