“It’s wet, muddy, slimy, and smells like rotten eggs: Sulfur Cave in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, is full of gases so toxic that a person who enters would pass out after just a few breaths. But that didn’t stop David Steinmann of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Donning a special respirator, he first explored the cave in 2007.
In this extreme environment, devoid of sunlight, Steinmann found clumps of tiny blood-red worms, each one just an inch long and as thin as a pencil lead. Now genetic analysis has confirmed that the worms are a new species that may not be found anywhere else on Earth. These tiny worms could even offer clues to the kinds of life that might be found on other planets.”
Wrote Erika Engelhaupt on July 6th, 2016, senior editor for blogs at National Geographic (Gory Details). Read more about the wormy wonders that live in Sulfur Cave on National Geographic’s Phenomena, here.
“In a sense, we really were inside of an organism,” Thompson says, “or perhaps more accurately, an ecosystem. Because the cave is a colony of organisms, living together in a lightless ecosystem, powered not by sunlight, but by the sulfur coming from deep within the Earth.”
EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Clumps of newly discovered blood-red worms thrive in Sulfur Cave, which contains levels of toxic gases so lethal that any human who enters unprotected could quickly die.
These worms in Colorado’s Sulphur Cave are believed to live on the chemical energy in the sulfur in the cave, similar to deep-ocean tube worms. On the left are streamers—colonies of microorganisms similar to those in hot springs in Yellowstone National Park.
Photo credit: nationalgeographic.com/