" NEW scorpion species found"
JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israeli researchers announced that they had discovered several new terrestrial and aquatic species in a cave in the centre of the country, including a blind scorpion.
"We found eight kinds of invertebrates unknown to science around 120 metres (400 feet) underground," Professor Amos Fromkin of Jerusalem's Hebrew University told a press conference.
"This a first-grade discovery for science," he added in front of a glass jars containing the new discoveries.
The largest of the animals was around five centimetres (two inches) and resembled a white scorpion. The rest could only be seen with the aid of microscopes.
All were discovered in a cave in the Rale region, close to Tel Aviv, during research into the ecosystems of aquifers.
"The fact that these species have been apparently living for millions of years in the caves without ever having been discovered is very rare," said Hanan Dimentman of the university's department of ecology.
"Their whole way of life is totally new to us, it's like a new world underground."
The discoveries have yet to be given a name but Dimentman said they could be divided into categories of scorpions and bacteria.
"The blind scorpions that we discovered are predators and are distant cousins of other scorpions which have never been found before in the Middle East," he added.
Species of blind scorpions are known to live in South America but it is the first time they have been discovered in the Middle East region.