Ophel: a groundwater biome based on chemoautotrophic resources. The global significance of the Ayyalon cave finds, Israel
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The discovery, in the inner coastal plain of Israel, of a deep, secluded subterranean ecosystem, supported by chemosynthetis producing by sulfide-oxidizing bacteria, suggests the existence of a new biome, “Ophel”, with an autonomous energy basis. This biome could provide an ecological and historical basis for explaining the high taxonomic diversity of subterranean faunas, especially of crustaceans. A continuum with the anchialine ecosystems, in which chemoautotrophy is also encountered, as well as with marine hot vents and cold seeps, implies the existence of a second, parallel chemosynthesis-based eukaryotic biosphere.