Proteus anguinus, also known as the olm, European cave salamander or simply Proteus, is the World’s largest cave animal, which can only be found in the caves of the Dinaric karst on the Balkan Peninsula. Being one of the most remarkable representatives of underground fauna, Proteus is worldwide recognized as a flagship species for the conservation of subterranean environments.Proteus is a unique species in several aspects. It developed a range of adaptations to cave environment, like loss of pigmentation and replacement of eyesight by other specializes senses which allows it to navigate and hunt in the complete darkness. It developed extremely slow metabolism, which enables its survival in food-depleted underground waters, as well as capability of extreme starvation, which can last for several years without any serious damage to its health. By reaching age of up to 100 years, Proteus is also the longest-living amphibian, whereas its remarkable regenerative capability enables its complete regeneration of missing or damaged limbs and other organs. With the genome size roughly 15-times the size of human genome, the Proteus genome will also be the largest known genome sequenced so far.
The project combines biological and medical expertise, sequencing technologies and bioinformatics tools of Department of Biology, Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana (Slovenia), Lars Bolund Institute of Integrative Regenerative Medicine (Aarhus, Denmark) and BGI Genomics (Quingdao, China).