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32 new olms arriving

The Postojna Cave is expecting new olm babies. One of the females laid new eggs earlier this summer. These have been developing successfully and almost all of the babies have already seen the »darkness of the cave«. The famous litter from 2016 is now joined by new dragon babies.

Out of 43 eggs, 32 babies are eagerly awaited, which statistically translates into a record 74 per cent reproductive success rate.

Statistically, scientists conclude that out of 500 eggs laid in the wild, only 2 olm babies reach adulthood. In 2016, when 22 little olms hatched in Postojna Cave, they had a reproductive success rate of 34 per cent, which was an excellent result, as the most optimistic predictions had hoped for at least one baby. Now, six years later, the cave is expecting twice that success rate, confirming its reputation as the best-performing cave laboratory, where scientists say they provide the optimal conditions for the dragon babies to grow and develop.

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Guardians of the olm

Katja Dolenc Batagelj, the head of the laboratory, stresses that in such exceptional situations, it is not only the mind that is needed, but also the heart: »We work according to the TCL principle: Tender Caring Love, or simply, the olms have our unconditional care and love. Literally.«

  • Katja Dolenc Batagelj, Katarina Kanduč and Primož Gnezda.

    The cave laboratory team: head Katja Dolenc Batagelj and biologists Katarina Kanduč and Primož Gnezda. Photo: Žiga Intihar/Postojnska jama d. d.

Behind it is a lot of work and responsibility, their own knowledge and a wealth of experience gained six years ago.

The team caring for the olms also boasts the title of finalists for the international Natura 2000 award, which is presented by an EU expert panel.

Based on empirical research, they have confirmed that the rate of embryo development and hatching is influenced by the ambient temperature. At higher cave temperatures, development is faster. In 2016, the first babies hatched after four months in an area of the cave where the temperature is constant between eight and ten degrees Celsius. This year, the litter, which is located in an area with a higher average temperature of around 10 to 12 degrees Celsius, started to hatch after just three months. This year, they have also seen the development of the extremely rare 'twin' eggs.

Their extensive archive material, based on tens of thousands of recordings and rare photographs, will allow researchers to gain new insights into the mysterious olm.

Source: Postojnska jama, d. d.

Author: Danila Golob

Date: 21. October 2022

Time to read: 2 min