Spelunkers in a Serbian cave may stumble across what appear to be spiders living on the rock walls and ceilings, but it turns out that some of these "spiders" are actually beetles, according to a new study.
New research reveals two new species of these spindle-legged cave beetles while also upending the creatures' family tree. The study, based on molecular analysis of the cave beetle DNA, created a new genus, Graciliella, which contains at least four species of the beetle.
The study was led by Iva Njunji?, a cave biologist at the University of Novi Sad in Serbia. Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia and nearby Balkan nations sit atop multiple cave systems, which are home to a variety of bizarre cave-adapted organisms. One example is the European cave salamander, or olm, a blind and colorless creature that navigates its environment through smell, touch and the detection of magnetic fields. [Creepy Crawlies & Flying Wonders: Incredible Cave Creatures]
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Cave beetles evolved from above-ground ancestors that looked like average, plump-bodied, short-legged beetles. The cave-adapted animal, though, has no eyes, no wings and no color. Its legs and antennae are extremely long, because the beetles compensate for the lack of eyesight with touch. These long appendages, combined with a fat hind part of the body that may help store fat during times of famine, give cave beetles their spidery appearance.
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