They are sometimes referred to as 'baby dragons', however, these tiny salamander creatures look nothing like Smaug.


"On 30 January 2016, one of Postojna Cave's tour guides noticed an olm egg attached to the glass of the aquarium, which is located in the Concert Hall of Postojna Cave. Next to the egg, there was a pregnant female olm watching it carefully," reads the proud announcement from Postojna Cave (Postojnska jama).

At the time of writing, the female laid almost 60 olm eggs that will develop into young olms in the following weeks - unless they get eaten by other cave inhabitants (cave amphipods, small crustaceans) that deem this eagerly awaited offspring quite tasty. The tiny 'mother of dragons' proved to be very strong and determined, (so far) successfully scaring away all the hungry intruders.

According to Postojna Cave, the entire development process (which highly depends on water temperature as well) could last a very long time – three to four months could pass before we actually see the babies hatch. Witnessing the natural birth of 'little dragons' is a very rare occasion, as female olms only reproduce once every six to seven years.

The blind (yet well equipped with sensitive chemo-, mechano-, and electroreceptors) proteus or Proteus anguinus is a 20–30 cm long aquatic snakelike creature. Because its colour resembles the colour of human skin, locals tend to call it 'človeška ribica' or the human fish, but it's been given many other names as well, like the white salamander, the blind salamander or 'močeril'. It's the only exclusively cave-dwelling chordate species found in Europe. It lives in caves, in underground waters of the karst, and can be found in southern Slovenia, the Soča river basin near Trieste, Italy, in southwestern Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The fragile proteus was first mentioned in 1689 by the local natural historian Johann Weikhard von Valvasor who noted that the olms were washed up from underground waters after heavy rains and discovered by the local people. Not knowing exactly what those creatures were, the locals believed them to be the offspring of a dragon, living in a deep, nearby cave.

In Postojna cave, olm eggs were found in 2013 for the first time, but they were eaten before any could be born. 

March 4, 2016 Living photo: Profimedia

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