European proteas are amphibians that live only in the underground lakes of Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia. Due to the similarity of color with the color of the human body, the amphibian received such a nickname. Body length reaches about 30 cm, weight not more than 20 grams.
In nature, all individuals are blind – their eyes hid under the skin and retained a reaction only to red light. In a world of darkness in which Proteus spend their whole lives, vision is useless. Proteus skin is photosensitive. Most likely, it is necessary to follow the light during the breeding season. There are observations of massive releases of proteas to the surface on moonlit nights.
Sometimes they are found in rivers on the surface, where they carry them in streams after heavy rains. The people who found them believed that Proteus was a newly hatched cave dragon that would grow huge and scary. Therefore, they were very afraid of them and destroyed them.
So Proteus became the heroes of local legends.
Proteins are very ancient. Having settled in caves 20 million years ago, they ideally adapted to superextreme conditions and even survived the Ice Age.
The lifespan of these little creatures is shocked. On average, she is 69 years old, and the maximum is more than 100!
Scientists believe that the secret to longevity lies in efficiently functioning mitochondria, which almost do not form reactive oxygen species – by-products of respiration. Such forms of oxygen actively react and damage DNA, proteins and lipids of cells, which contributes to aging.
Proteins feed on small crustaceans, which in small numbers live in the same underground lakes. But they come across not at all often. Proteus adapted to this. He can do without food … as much as 8 years!
At first they are actively looking for food, vigorously moving around the pond. If it cannot be found for a long time, the proteas switch to the energy-saving mode and examine the bottom slowly and methodically.
At the same time, energy was produced from glycogen, then lipids, and at the very end muscle proteins were connected, saving the most important of them.
Proteins are able to breed only by the age of 15-16. They breed extremely rarely – every 12 years, laying an average of 35 eggs.
Proteus never turns into an adult form and remains a child for life (larval stage). In this we are also very with proteins – adults in many ways are much more like children than, for example, chimpanzees in their cubs. There is an assumption that this feature helps us to age more slowly than other primates.
At the time, proteas were subjected to mass capture because they became a popular commodity among aquarists. Their number has greatly decreased, so now they are under strict protection.
Proteus is very sensitive to environmental changes and pollution. In the caves where they are found, not everyone is allowed to see them. Once I ended up in one of these, in Bosnia, called Vjetrenica. I saw ponds in which proteas had previously inhabited, but the animals themselves could not be seen – tourists do not have access to the distant processes of the cave. And it is right.