new animal .
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Eight species of invertebrate animals dating back millions of years that have been previously unknown to science have been discovered in Israel, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem announced Wednesday.
The species, which have a "a new and unique ecosystem," were discovered in a cave that was uncovered as a result of excavations in a quarry in the vicinity of the central Israeli city of Ramle.
The invertebrate animals found in the cave - four seawater and freshwater crustaceans and four terrestrial species - are related to but different from other, similar life forms known to scientists.
The species, which are estimated to be millions of years old, have been sent to biological experts in both Israel and abroad for further analysis and dating.
The cave, which has been dubbed the Ayalon Cave, is "unique in the world," primarily due to its isolation from the outside world, said Prof. Amos Frumkin of the university's Department of Geography.
Situated under a layer of chalk that is impenetrable to water, the cave extends over 2.5 kilometers, making it Israel's second largest limestone cave.
"The eight species found thus far are only the beginning of what promises to be a fantastic biodiversity," said Dr. Hanan Dimentman of the university's Institute of Life Sciences.
He added that he expects further exploration to reveal several other unique life forms.
The animals found in the cave were all discovered live, except for a blind species of scorpion.
The underground cave includes an underground lake, in which the crustaceans were found.
The lake is part of the Yarkon-Taninim aquifer, one of Israel's two aquifers, yet is different in temperature and chemical composition from the main waters of the aquifer.
The lake's temperature and salinity indicates that its source is deep underground.
Two of the crustaceans found are seawater species, while two others are of a type found in fresh or brackish water, information which researchers said could prove insightful into events occurring millions of years ago regarding the history of ancient bodies of water in the region.
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