Crocodiles in the Dominican Republic? Yes, a feast of teeth in the East!

Underwater cave specialists from the Dominican Republic Speleological Society (DRSS), working with scientists affiliated to the Museum of Dominican Man have found at least three fossils of crocodiles in a spring inside a cave in the eastern province of La Altagracia.

"Thousands of bats live there," Cristian Pittaro of the DRSS told Listin Diario. Rimoli observed that at least four different species of bats live in the cave. The initiative was funded also by a National Geographic Society/Waitt Institute grant.

Up to now, it was believed that crocodiles only inhabited bodies of water in the southwest, namely in Enriquillo Lake, as reported in Listin Diario. The fossils found in La Altagracia could be of the species Crocodylus acutus, the same American Crocodile species that lives in the Enriquillo Lake and that is at risk of extinction.

One spring was found to have a maximum depth of 10 meters. Some 2,800 feet of tunnels have been explored, with the fossils found at eight meters.

The cave had been unexplored until a local contacted diving instructor Oleg Shevchuk with a lead on a spring inside a cave that could be explored. The cave is difficult to access, with a 13-meter drop that then opens out to a large area where bat guano was found. Locals had built two ladders to descend into the cave in which sunlight does not enter.

Shevchuk and the team at DRSS explored the cave and confirmed the existence of bones in the bottom sediment of the spring. Photos were later shown to Renato Rimoli, a paleontologist at the Museum of Dominican Man who organized an expedition accompanied by US researchers Alfred Rosenberger (Brooklyn College) and Siobhan Cook (Duke University), who have been on the trail of monkeys in the Dominican Republic.

Rimoli told Listin Diario that this is an impressive finding for science in the country and the next step is to study all the species that inhabited the cave to identify them correctly. Remains of snakes and a large variety of crustaceans have been found at the bottom of the spring.

The cave has been named Oleg Bat House and researchers say what makes it different is the variety of biodiversity that is alive within it, as reported in the newspaper.

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