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The Olm (Proteus anguinus)

The Olm is a fascinating animal that looks like the cross between a snake and a lizard. There is a lot that can be discussed about this guy, so let's get straight into the science.

Physical Description and Behavior

The Olm has a snake-like body with legs similar to that of a lizard. It is about 8 to 16 inches long and is almost entirely white, sometimes having a pinkish or yellowish coloration. It has small teeth, almost indetectable nostrils, and is completely blind.

It spends the entirety of its time underwater and breathes through external gills located on the back of its head. These gills are red in color due to oxygen-rich blood flowing through them. They actually look fairly similar to the Axlcotle despite not having any relation.

They are blind due to constantly being in the dark, so they have developed other methods of detecting prey and threats. These include photoreceptors, chemoreceptors, and even the ability to hear underwater.

Studies have shown that they are able to survive for up to 60 years. they can spend up to 10 years without food, and being perfectly still. It only seems to move in order to eat or mate.

Habitat and Location

They can be found in caves north of the Adriatic sea. From Croatia, Slovenia, to the end of Bosnia. They are mostly found in dark and moist places.

The IUCN Red List considers them a vulnerable species with their population on a downward trend. They are under threat due to urbanization and overlogging. It will also be interesting to see how this species reacts to climate change.

To learn more about this fascinating amphibian, check out this video by the Smithsonian.

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