Meet the deepest land animal ever found

Illustration for article titled Meet the deepest land animal ever found

This pale little fellow is the newly discovered Plutomurus ortobalaganensis, a springtail found almost 2,000 meters underground and the title holder of "deepest terrestrial arthropod ever found." This creature along with Anurida stereoodorata, Deuteraphorura kruberaensis, and Schaefferia profundissima are four new species identified by researchers who descended into Krubera-Voronja, the world's deepest cave.

These four new species are described in the journal Terrestrial Arthropod Reviews, and all of them are members of the Collembola class. Collembola are an offshoot of the Hexapods, a cousin to insects. These new discoveries are all flightless, six-limbed creatures without pigments or eyes, a common adaptation to lightless environments. The Anurida stereoodorata even has an external chemoreceptor sensory organ to help navigate in the deep dark.

Up until now, the deepest springtails ever seen were at -550m, but the discovery of P. ortobalaganensis at -1980m below the surface changes that dramatically. They were found as high as -70m, but obviously went much, much deeper.


In terms of absolute depth, these new finds aren't actually that deep — the mouth of the cave system is actually 2240 meters above sea level, putting the new species above the ocean, even though they live in the deepest, darkest place imaginable. Still, these pale, tiny creatures mark a new frontier in land-based adaptations.

Image: Plutomurus ortobalaganensis, photographed by Enrique Baquero and Rafael Jordana, published in Terrestrial Arthropod Reviews, Brill.

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And like lobster are good eats. What? Sea insects are okay, but land one's aren't?