The Cave-Dwelling Baby Dragons of Slovenia

Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
May 28 2014 11:44 AM

The Cave-Dwelling Baby Dragons of Slovenia

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The limestone labyrinth that is Slovenia's Postojna Cave is home to a most unusual animal. The olm (Proteus anguinus) is also known as the human fish, the baby dragon, and, in Slovenian, "močeril." (Translation: "the one that burrows into wetness.")

Olms are entirely aquatic and only found in the waters of caves in the Dinaric Alps—that is, parts of Slovenia, Italy, Croatia, and Herzegovina. They measure 8 to 12 inches long and have non-pigmented skin that is unnervingly reminiscent of white humans' flesh. The eyes of the olm are covered in a layer of skin, but that is no impediment—the species, having adapted to live in dark caves, is blind.

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Your average olm lives for around 50 years. Not a bad run, considering axolotls get 15 years if they're lucky and stay out of trouble.

If you'd like to see one of these marvelous baby dragons up close, take a Proteus-focused tour of Postojna Cave. You'll get to see the olm's natural habitat and the creatures themselves in the on-site aquarium.

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Olms in the Postojna Cave aquarium.

Photo: Isaac Bordas/Creative Commons

Other places on Daenerys Targaryen's bucket list:


View Postojnska jama Cave Grotte Höhle in a larger map

Ella Morton is a writer working on The Atlas Obscura, a book about global wonders, curiosities, and esoterica adapted from Atlas Obscura. Follow her on Twitter.