Scientific breakthrough reveals evidence of 'human fish' locked away in cave system
Last December, Društvo za jamsko biologijo (Society for Cave Biology - SCB) achieved breakthrough detection of a rare species in inaccessible habitat in the Balkans. This is the first physical detection of olm (Proteus anguinus) discovered in Montenegro.
The olm is the largest cave animal in the world and an endemic flagship species of the Dinaric karst groundwater system. In June 2013, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) awarded a small grant to SCB through its investment in the Mediterranean Basin biodiversity hotspot. As experts in speleological research, SCB aimed to provide a scientific basis for the long-term protection, enforcement and the minimization of threats to olm, classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, and its habitat.
SCB successfully tested and perfected the technique of identifying olm environmental DNA (eDNA) from samples of water, and used the technique to identify new localities of olm in Montenegro and Bosnia and Hercegovina. This research will give SCB and partners the evidence necessary to appeal and counsel the nature conservation authorities in Montenegro to start all necessary legal actions to protect olm in their territories, and to guide the management planning of authorities in Bosnia and Hercegovina.