Rare ‘Baby Dragons’ Hatched in Ancient Slovenia Cave are All Grown Up
Beyond Khaleesi's famous dragons in "Game of Thrones," in Slovenia, there exists real "baby dragons" and are all grown up.
Olms, fondly called baby dragons, are a rare kind of ghostly pale and blind aquatic salamanders that hatched in the ancient Postojna Cave in June. Out of the 64 olm eggs laid by a single female, only 22 hatched and are still developing. These olms have remarkably survived the most crucial early stages of their lives, reaching adolescence.
"After months of trepidation, worries and doubts, the most uncertain development period for newborn olms is over," said the research team at the Postojna Cave. "The baby dragons are now 18 weeks old and are ready to enter a new stage of development."
Olms can live up to 100 years and only lay eggs once or twice a decade. According to scientists, olms are considered vulnerable species because of their small numbers and polluted underground habitat.
The rare dragon birth four months ago was captured on an infrared camera by Saso Weldt and his colleagues, who were studying the olms in Postojna Cave. According to the research team, it is extremely rare to capture these births on film, as they either happen very quickly or they don't happen at all.
"This is the first time that the general public has the opportunity to see and follow the development of a creature that lives a really hidden life, in the darkness," Saso Weldt, member of the research team studying olms in Postojna Cave in south-western Slovenia, said in a report by New Scientist.
"These are the only baby dragons in the world, known to humanity," Weldt added.
The researchers feared that once the yolk was gone, the newborn olms would not develop digestive systems and would not be able to feed. But the baby dragons are now 4 to 4.5 centimeters long and are growing continuously, the scientists said.
The adolescence period will last for about 15 years for female olms and 11 years for male olms, depending on water temperature. The young olms resemble the adults and it would take two to three years for skin to cover their eyes. About a year and a half later, the dark color will disappear and will be replaced by a pinkish color.
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