Less than 180 miles from Cancun’s spectacular seashores, via a virtually roadless stretch of mosquito-crowded jungle, lies a mysterious darkish cave that’s dwelling to a species of blind, deaf snakes that feed primarily on flying bats.
The inky black cave is a singular ecosystem. “This is the only place in the world where this happens,” mentioned Arturo Enrique Bayona Miramontes, the biologist who found it. His wandering flashlight beam first found the cave and unusual animals residing inside.
The cave, many miles inland from the well-known Mayan ruins of Tulum, is unknown to nearly all vacationers and a real shock to scientists. Once once more, the Central American jungle has been peeled away to disclose one other species, one other hidden pure world.
The “cave of the hanging snakes” has a 65-foot huge mouth from which 1000’s of bats of seven completely different species swarm out each evening, in search of meals in and round Lake Chichancanab, some 2 miles away. When the bats return from nighttime feeding, some change into meals for the snakes.
Carved from rock by rainfall and runoff over hundreds of thousands of years, the cave is carpeted in bat droppings. On the rock ceiling grasp untold a whole lot of 1000’s — possibly hundreds of thousands — of bats. And clinging to the cave’s roof among the many bats dangle 1000’s of sightless snakes. When a bat’s wing brushes by, the snake immediately strikes, clamping its prey in its jaws and devouring it.
The approach of the yellow-red rat snake is frighteningly exact, Bayona Miramontes mentioned. “These snakes do not see or hear, but they can feel the vibrations of the bats flying, and they use that opportunity to hunt them with their body, suffocating their victims before gobbling them down.”
The reptiles reside in crevices within the cave wall. When a bat is just too massive to tug inside, the snake expertly breaks its wings.
A Mayan neighborhood in Kantemó, a Yucatán peninsula settlement so small that it has just one church, has been defending the slithery predators’ setting, mentioned Bayona Miramontes.
To shield this distinctive ecosystem, not more than 10 guests are allowed inside at a time. No images is permitted. The Covid-19 pandemic has closed the cave, for now, however it would reopen when the well being division of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo permits tourism once more.
Bayona Miramontes recollects how he and his assistant made the invention. “The local community came to the technological institute where I was working in search of alternative ways to approach the jungle in a sustainable way. I was told to conduct a survey of the local cultural, history and water resources in the area to evaluate its resources,” he mentioned.
The villagers confirmed him a cave that nobody ever entered as a result of age-old legends warned of evil spirits residing there. Once he obtained permission from native leaders to enterprise inside, he mentioned, “nobody wanted to accompany me and I went alone, finding a lot of bats and remains of antique pots which were believed to be of Mayan origin. And I saw that it had a huge potential for tourism.”
The biologist and his staff had solely visited the cave in the course of the day, fully lacking the pitch-black feeding cycle. But throughout a nighttime bike trip 4 months later, he and his assistant noticed a mass exodus of bats flying out of the opening.
“We decided to go in, and it was a great surprise. … I looked up to the ceiling of the cave and I saw snakes hanging down, some of them moving rhythmically, others with a bat in their mouth, and others with nothing. But it was clear that they were hunting, in total darkness,” Bayona Miramontes mentioned. He mentioned his assistant was scared, however he knew that what they have been witnessing “was going to be the discovery of my life” and a superb alternative for the neighborhood.
They visited the cave at evening for 3 months. He even slept inside, confirming that the identical phenomenon occurred when the bats returned from feeding within the jungle.
After making detailed recordings and notes in regards to the phenomenon, he revealed his discovery to the close by neighborhood. They have been afraid, he mentioned, as a result of their oral custom held that the bats might harm their kids. They have determined over time that he was proper. “They even want to erect a statue of the snakes, as it has opened up the small community, which does not even appear on any maps, to world tourism,” Bayona Miramontes mentioned.
An ecotourism project now consists of chook watching and visits to the lake and the cave, however with a managed quantity of folks. Bayona Miramontes mentioned offers fell via with tourism companies that noticed little alternative for revenue. But non-public fundraising has produced sufficient cash to construct a customer middle and to coach guides.
The snakes are thought to have lived in Kantemó for 200 years or longer, adapting completely to the darkness and residing in a kind of tense equilibrium with the opposite animals. The biologist mentioned the cave held three main advantages for the reptiles: “They have a constant temperature all year round. They can find food every day without difficulty, as they only have to hang and wait for the bats. And they are the queens of the ecosystem, as they do not have any natural predators.”
The snakes and bats have firm inside their cave, together with the blind brotula, a kind of clear eel that has advanced and tailored to the darkness. It’s native to Mexico and the one recognized species of its sort.
This balanced ecosystem could possibly be threatened by even the smallest of adjustments within the chemical composition of the water, however there isn’t any hazard “as long as the underground water currents keep on going,” Bayona Miramontes mentioned.
This story was supplied to Newsweek by Zenger News.