The first-ever direct images of the interior of the largest and most complete cave system ever discovered in the Peruvian Amazon have revealed life in a deep underground world unlike anything ever documented before, researchers say.
The cave complex in the northern region of Pemex, located near the border with Peru, was found in a large chamber, a vast subterranean lake, and a network of caves that stretched for more than 1,000 kilometres (750 miles).
Researchers say the cave system’s history and its biodiversity were beyond comprehension, with its complex ecology of plants and animals that would have never been discovered before.
“There are so many different kinds of animals in this cave system, and yet they have all been preserved in a very natural way,” said Daniela Guillamon, a PhD student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who led the research.
“They are the remnants of a life that was more complex and complex than we ever thought existed in our world.”
The new images, which were unveiled this week, were taken during a tour of the cave complex.
The researchers first discovered the cave in 2009, when a team of explorers was hiking the remote, windy region, called Pemecuco, when they stumbled across an unusual rock formation.
The area is a vast, rainforested area that is home to a variety of wildlife, including the elusive giant tortoise, which is a threat to hunters.
The team went on to discover that the complex contained many caves, including one that had been excavated more than 500 years ago.
The research team’s findings were published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
“This cave system was so ancient and so complex, and it had a life and it still has a life, which we never thought it had,” said Dr. Guillomon.
Dr. Guillermon and her colleagues say they are hopeful that their research will lead to a better understanding of the biology and ecology of this complex ecosystem, which they believe may have been inhabited by humans before the arrival of the Incas.
“We are very interested in what this system was like in the past, and the environment that existed there, and if we can find more evidence of that,” said lead researcher Danilo G. Calvo.