Reptiles

Dragons on the Loose

In the late 1600’s Europe experienced heavy rainfall filled lakes and ponds. The rain also caused underground caves to fill with water. Cave dwelling creatures were flushed into the open. In some areas, small salamanders that resembled baby dragons were discovered. The sight of these “baby dragons”, and the possibility of these creatures existing, could be a scary situation for a small village. Over 300 years later people no longer fear this animal, in fact they wait patiently for the birth of more of these “baby dragons”.

Cave life can affect animals in many ways. It takes a lot to adapt to the dark and wet environment underground. The effects can be seen in the olm. In a dark cave where there is no light, being able to see is a lot less important. The olm’s eyes stay undeveloped and a layer of skin has grown over them. The most visible feature that makes the olm stand out is its external gills. Red, oxygen rich tufts behind the head. It keeps a lot of its larval proportions. Like a long, skinny body, and flattened head. These features have made the adult olm cause some observers to mistake them for baby dragons.

The olm can live to over 100 years and do not have offspring very often. Now it’s understood that they will not grow to become fire breathing dragons that can destroy villages. We can watch these cave dwellers without the fear of attack. The olm has not been observed to reproduce in the wild because of their dark habitat. In Slovenia they finally watched two olms being born in captivity. Two eggs hatched out of almost a hundred eggs. It’s believed the olm has been around for about 15 million years and this will be the first time people have seen the birth of a “baby dragon”

Abc news, mar 1, 2016, Avianne Tan

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Eric Bender

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