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Olm (Proteus anguinus) in Moulis, Ariege (Laboratoire souterraine, CNRS) | by Javier Ábalos
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Olm (Proteus anguinus) in Moulis, Ariege (Laboratoire souterraine, CNRS)

This unique amphibian, which Darwin himself cited as an example of organ reduction through disuse, inhabits karstic caves of Central Europe, a very delicate habitat highly sensitive to extrinsic pollutants from agriculture. It's inherently fragmented habitat, together with the illegal collection of individuals for pet trade and our struggle to understand how water is purified in karstic systems have resulted in the plummeting of Proteus populations in the wild. Consequently, the olm (Proteus anguinus) has been the objective of several conservation plans, dating as back as 1922 in its natal Slovenia, and several laboratories from around the world have joined forces to save this valuable species from extinction.

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Taken on May 11, 2017