As if this world was not alien enough, it’s one of the only known ecosystems that relies on chemosynthetic bacteria. Most ecosystems use photosynthesis to harness energy. However, since there’s no natural sunlight in the cave, the bacteria need to get their energy and carbon directly from chemical reactions, such as the oxidation of sulfide or the oxidation of ammonium.
Close-up of an Armadillidium sp. woodlouse found only in the Movile Cave, Romania. Patrick Landmann/Science Photo Library.
But how the animals ended up in the cave and became isolated remains unclear to scientists.
"It's very likely that the bacteria have been there a lot longer than five million years, but that the insects became trapped there around that time," J. Colin Murrell, a microbiologist from the University of East Anglia, said to BBC Earth. "They could have simply fallen in and become trapped when the limestone cast dropped, sealing the cave until it was discovered again in 1986.”
There are still many mysteries that lie deep within the Movile Cave. But even after just 30 years of knowing it exists, researchers still have many more inhabitants to discover, some of whom could hold massive insights into evolutionary biology and even the nature of life itself.