The olm, also known as human fish (due to their fleshy colour), cave salamander, white salamander and proteus (due to to their scientific name proteus agnius) is an entirely aquatic amphibian found in the north of the Adriatic sea and caves in the Dinaric Alps. They are the only chordate in Europe that live only in caves.
The olm is a long, snake like animal with small legs. The back feet have two toes while the front have three. They are normally 20-30 cm long, but can grow to be 40. They lack pigmentation on skin. It has small frizzy ‘ears’, which are actually not ears at all, but gills (they have functioning lungs too).
The olm is blind (though it can detect light), but has a good sense of hearing and smell, and can also sense electricity.
The olm has two subspecies which are proteus agnius agnius and proteus agnius parkelj.
The olm is considered vulnerable.
Olms were first mentioned by the naturalist Valvasor in 1689 in his Glory of the Duchy of Carniola. He reported that, after heavy rains, the olms were washed up from the underground waters and were believed by local people to be a cave dragon's offspring.
The human fish can live to 100 years of age. It stays in its larval form for its whole life, and reaches sexual maturity at sixteen.
Proteus is the symbol of Slovenian natural heritage.
The olm is a carnivore which preys on small invertebrates; worms, aquatic insects, larvae and snails.
Predators of the olm include fish, other amphibians, and the rare rodent or bird.
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