Sneaking To Surface : Salamander's underground status seems to have been vastly overstated.

Scientists have discovered that blind cave salamanders in northern Italy leave their underground homes to go on expeditions to the surface.

Eyeless and ghostly pale from millions of years spent below ground, the salamanders appear to commute back and forth to the sunny surface using springs where water bubbles up from hundreds of feet deep.

Raoul Manenti, a zoology professor in Milan, and colleagues described the discovery in a study published in the journal Ecology.

Over the centuries, a handful of the salamanders, a species called olms, had been spotted aboveground, but scientists assumed that they were the victims of flooding.

Cave salamanders are so specialized for life underground, the thinking went, they couldn't possibly survive outside their caves. To find an olm, researchers usually rapped down well-like openings to reach caves.

But the research team spotted an olm swimming in an aboveground spring, and soon found them in a number of other springs as well. [Elizabeth Anne Brown]


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