Rafael Jordana and Enrique Baquero

ScienceShot: An Arthropod Version of Morlocks?

In the darkest depths of terra firma, springtails, a humble class of creepy-crawlies, quietly go about their business. Researchers documenting life in the world’s deepest cave, Krubera-Voronya on the eastern side of the Black Sea, discovered four new species of springtail, including the eyeless Anurida stereoodorata (inset), which subsist on fungi and decaying organic material. The intrepid scientists monitored sections of the cave for a month, looking for life using pitfall traps baited with cheese. Two of the species, Plutomurus ortobalaganensis (pictured above), found 1980 meters down, and Schaefferia profundissima found 1600 meters down, now hold the record for deepest living underground invertebrates, researchers report today in Terrestrial Arthropod Reviews. Their new finds bury the previous record-holder for deepest-dwelling springtail, Ongulonychiurus colpus, a Spanish cave creature found 550 meters down. And since these new species were one of the most common decomposers in Krubera-Voronya cave, they probably have no need to snatch creatures from the surface for food—as H.G. Wells’s subterranean Morlocks did in The Time Machine.

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