The cave-dwelling animals, officially called proteus or olms, have pale pink skin, no eyesight, a long thin body and four legs. They live only in the waters of dark caves of the southern European Karst region.
Three rare aquatic creatures known as baby dragons have just gone on display in an aquarium at Slovenia’s Postojna Cave, which is known to be one of the country’s biggest tourist attractions. It was in this same cave that the dragons were hatched back in 2016 in a rare successful breeding. Before now, local people has always potrayed the creatures as the babies of dragons that were believed to live in the caves.
“We were excited when the eggs were being laid and then had thousands of doubts: how will they survive, what will we feed them with, how will we protect them from infection?” Marjan Batagelj, managing director of the cave, told Reuters.
This ancient underwater predators can live up to 100 years and only breed once in a decade. They are called dragons because of there identical look to the chinese dragon. But the creature (Proteus anguinus), with its cute stubby limbs, is actually an amphibian(called Olm) - a type of salamander that has adapted to life in the eternal darkness of a skyless existence. This lifestyle of living in the darkness resulted in under-developed eyes covered by layers of skin. As a result, Charles Darwin refer to the species as "wrecks of ancient life".
The creature's(olm) eyes can only detect the presence of light, but can't do much else, which makes them essentially blind. But they make up for this with a keen sense of smell, underwater hearing, and the ability to detect movements in their wet habitat.
As at June 2016, staffs form the Slovenia’s Postojna Cave hatched about 21 out of 60 eggs, and they have decided to display only three of them this year June 2020. That's right, after 4 years, they are finally being displayed. But they are still babies though. The ancient underwater predators can live up to 100 years, so 4 years still makes them kids. Only 30 visitors per day are allowed to visit the baby dragons.
"We are proud to present three out of the 21 baby olms, the world-famous 'dragon's offspring', which we have kept a close eye on since 2016," the Postojna cave said in a statement.
In other to gather more information about the creatures, the cave authorities actually kept them far from visitors in a cave laboratory as their "best kept and most carefully guarded secret" - until now. While the creatures were been studied, the cave authorities decided to make a diary for them inform of a website which is availave at www.postojnska-jama.eu.
The olms are sometimes referred to as "human fish", the slim vertebrate sports three feathery gills on each side of its elongated snout, which makes it look more like the chinese dragon. Its sheer pink skin makes it easy to spot the internal organs. They can go without food for up to a decade.
See more images of the rare creatures here.