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Pulse of the Planet is a weekday radio show that "provides its listeners with a two-minute sound portrait of Planet Earth, tracking the rhythms of nature, culture and science worldwide and blending interviews and extraordinary natural sound."
Program #2584
January 2002
Caves: Ancient Life  

ambiance: Dive sounds

Deep within this saltwater cave in Bermuda, marine biologists are studying tiny organisms which may have been stranded here during the age of the dinosaurs. Im Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Dr. Tom Iliffe has dived into hundreds of these caves, located mostly on islands around the world. The life-forms which have survived in this dark environment have been here a long, long, time.

Were diving into caves that give us a glimpse of what life was like very early on in the history of life on Earth. Its a literal time machine where we can see what conditions were like millions of years ago. We can see organisms that probably existed in the early oceans on Earth.

Biologists were surprised to find that the tiny crustaceans living in these caves have more in common with fossil specimens than with their distant modern relatives such as crabs and shrimp. Interestingly enough, their only true kin can be found in other deep saltwater caves.

Many of the animals that we find in isolated saltwater caves have close relatives inhabiting saltwater caves on other islands or even other oceans. Indeed weve found animals that are closely related to cave species from the Caribbean, occurring and inhabiting saltwater caves in Australia on the opposite sides of the Earth.

Tom Iliffe believes that these animals originally invaded underwater caves along the coast of an ancient super-continent. As this giant land mass broke up, the fragments drifted apart, and became the continents that we know today. The tiny creatures in these caves were separated by distance and frozen in time.

First broadcast on 24-JAN-02

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