Ayalon Cave

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The Ayalon Cave is a large underground limestone cave near Ramla, Israel in which new species of crustaceans were discovered in April 2006.[1]

History[edit]

The cave was discovered in 2006 when a small opening was discerned in a quarry near Ramla.

Description[edit]

The cave, 100 meters (300 feet) deep, extends almost 2.5 kilometres including its branches, which makes it the second largest limestone cave in Israel. According to Professor Amos Frumkin of the Hebrew University, the cave is unique in that a thick layer of chalk left it impermeable to any water coming from the surface.

Ecosystem[edit]

Researchers announced that they have so far discovered eight species previously unknown to science, all without eyes, including four aquatic crustacean species and four terrestrial species. They added that the crustaceans included two seawater and two fresh water species, this diversity giving hope that it might help better understand the water history of the region.

As the cave was completely cut off from the outside environment, it sustained an independent ecosystem; this ecosystem relied for an energy source neither on sunlight and photosynthesis, nor on an external source of organic compounds. Rather, energy was extracted by chemoautotrophic bacteria, living in a film on top of the water of an underground lake. These bacteria produce energy by oxidizing the sulfide compounds in the water, and derive organic compounds using carbon dioxide from the air. These compounds form the basis of the cave's ecosystem. The temperature and salt content of the cave's water indicates that it originates from sources deep underground. Although this cave is part of an aquifer fed by rain falling in the mountains to the east, which happens to be one of the main potable water sources for Israel and the Palestinian territories, chemically more complex sources can create local pockets with very specific water composition.

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