As It Happens

People around the world wait for rare "baby dragons" to hatch in Slovenia

They were once thought to be baby dragons. Now, a rare species of salamander that has laid eggs in an aquarium has become a media sensation in its native Slovenia.
A proteus with an egg ( Iztok Medja for Postojnska jama)

A rare blind salamander in Slovenia has become a celebrity, as people around the world watch for its eggs to hatch.

Scientists in Slovenia are waiting for the eggs from the salamander, known as proteus or an olm, to hatch in a cave-based aquarium.

A proteus with her eggs ( Iztok Medja for Postojnska jama)

Stanley Sessions, a molecular biologist at Hartwick College in New York, tells As It Happens host Carol Off,  "It's steeped in Slovenian mythology. When it was first discovered … people thought they were baby dragons."

A proteus egg ( Iztok Medja for Postojnska jama)

Proteus only lay eggs once a decade, and there is intense scientific interest because there isn't a lot of data about how proteus reproduces.

This particular Proteus was not expected to lay eggs. Public interest has been so strong, staff at the aquarium has set up an infrared camera so that tourists can monitor the progress of the eggs.

The mother proteus lays her eggs under a rock in an aquarium ( Iztok Medja for Postojnska jama)

Currently, the proteus has laid about 40 eggs. So far only 3 of them have shown signs of growth, "I'm afraid it's unlikely many of them will hatch," says Sessions, "We know probably half of them are going to die, it's too early to tell how many will make it."

The proteus egg hatching has become so popular it's the subject of newspaper comics, and has a big following online. ( Iztok Medja for Postojnska jama)

The eggs that survive are expected to hatch in three to four months.


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