Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

Some interesting takeaways::

- The cave is called "Movile".

- 3 species of spider, a centipede, 4 species of isopod (the group that includes woodlice), a leech never seen anywhere else in the world, and an unusual-looking insect called a waterscorpion

- Movile's only snail [probably the only snail species] suggested that it has been down there for just over 2 million years.

- Many animals are born without eyes, which would be useless in the dark. Almost all are translucent as they have lost pigment in their skin.

- The cave seems to have no contact with the surface; Chernobyl accident had released lots of radioactive metals, which had found their way into the soils and lakes surrounding Movile Cave. However, a 1996 study found no traces of them inside the cave.

- The ecosystem seems to be supported by chemosynthesis; bacteria oxidise methane, sulphide and ammonia, generating energy and organic matter.

The sad irony is that by opening it and discovered it, we've ruined the entire ecosystem. But by not discovering it we never would have known about it, and it is an educational opportunity lost.

Really cannot win either way. Just have to hope there are other, undiscovered, caves like this around the globe.

Have we? We've definitely changed the ecosystem, but it doesn't sound like things have changed all that much in the 30 years since it was discovered.

I guess it depends how you define "ruined", but it doesn't sound like any species have been lost, or life in there has been interrupted in any significant way.

There are almost certainly thousands, if not tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of undiscovered caves exactly like this around the globe. And even that is probably a wild underestimate. The world is a very, very big place, and humans, despite all our activity, have barely scratched the surface of most of it.


I really like this word! Did you coin it just now?

Thanks! To my knowledge, yes; I haven't googled.


See you in Lake Vostok

That lends credence to Journey to the Center of the earth.

Maybe we still have dinosaurs lurking somewhere? Jurassic Park anybody?

They installed an airlock to keep changes to a minimum.

Edit: a double airlock

They also washed their hands before they went inside.

Edit - and wore a hair net

Oh good. They likely wiped their feet too.

Edit - on only one of the three spider species.

I hope they had their white coats properly buttoned.

Hope they didnt bring something outside :D

Nah, just like most of the animals in that cave wouldn't survive outside of it, nothing from outside world would thrive inside of it: the conditions are too different. With low oxygen, and food sources that require extreme specialisation it's hard for any invasive species to take hold.

We have the rest of the Universe that is untouched by human hands As Carl Sagan would say, there are "billions and billions" of stars each with its own solar system. We have a long way to go before contaminating everything. Some people find reasons to be depressed.

I don't think it's SO bad. There's still an opportunity to protect it and learn from it without completely destroying it.

All the more reason to develop better robots for terrestrial exploring.

I agree

> Just have to hope there are other, undiscovered, caves like this around the globe.

But the moment we discover them...

Let sterile robots do the spelunking!

Can they do it in the dark? We still have the Marinas trench! We have to really make an effort to contaminate that!

Is there really such a thing as a sterile robot? Chances are that our probes have carried some microscopic life to Mars already.

The question is, assuming that life survived space travel, can it survive there, let alone thrive?

Also, the people involved in those missions must have known about the possibility of contamination. Do they take no steps against it?


You sound depressed.

The part about "The bacteria's ability to oxidise methane and carbon dioxide is of particular interest." -- which seems to mean "ability to oxidise carbon dioxide" -- can't be right. Maybe the meaning is methane to CO2?

How can you still extract energy from a O=C=O molecule without using something like flourine? On the other hand, how does the CO2 get back into the carbon cycle? Do the organisms use an endothermic process to get the carbon back?

And has the 10% oxygen content been there since the cave was opened? Or was this the first mass extinction? While the water does not reach the cave, is there a way for air to make it through? I would expect no oxygen otherwise.

I also thought it was an error, but Wikipedia says:

12 H2S + 6 CO2 -> C6H12O6 (=carbohydrate) + 6 H2O + 12 S


Yeah, that was a glaring error by the author of the article... However, upon re-reading, I noticed this sentence a few paragraphs above:

> "The bacteria get all of their carbon from just one source, be it methane or carbon dioxide,"

So I'm guessing the author really wanted to say "the bacteria's ability to fix carbon from methane and carbon dioxide is of particular interest".

I'm guessing that the full cycle is the same as the above-ground cycle of photosynthesis (CO2 + H2O + energy => O2 + food) and respiration (O2 + food => CO2 + H2O), except replacing photosynthesis by chemosynthesis.

I think it should be: The bacteria's ability to oxidise stuff into methane and carbon dioxide is of particular interest. (From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Movile_Cave the cave is full of co2 and methane).

Movila (plura: movile) means mound in romanian

>The cave is called "Movile" I don't know if I would call this an interesting takeaway lol, more like just a fact you need to know when talking about this.

Applications are open for YC Summer 2020

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact