The Hommingberger Gepardenforelle (Hommingberg Cheetah Trout), a rather rare subspecies of trout, has long been praised for its flavour. The cheetah-like pattern of its skin, which gives it its name, is particularly striking.
Recent research has now proven that the cheetah trout is a cave-dwelling species. Apparently, the ancestors of the cheetah trout sought refuge in underground waters several million years ago. Troglomorphism, i.e. the evolutionary physical adaptation to the lightless environment of the cave, led to drastic changes in the trout. Pigments in the skin and eyes were reduced and the sense of touch enhanced. As a result, the trout survived the ice ages relatively unscathed, albeit in a very small population. However, after the end of the last ice age, beginning with the bifurcation of the ice around 10,000 years ago, the trout reclaimed its original habitat. While other fish first had to migrate back in, it never left its territory, only retreated underground.
Homingberg, a small-scale area of Devonian limestone, originally formed as a coral reef at the bottom of the ocean, is a geological and karstological sensation of the first order. Underground drainage takes place here in a large-scale water cave, which provides sufficient habitat for trout. Sulphurous thermal springs provide the basis for an independent ecology that begins with sulphur-loving bacteria. This situation, known from the Movile Cave in Romania or the Cueva de Vila Luz in Mexico, is absolutely unique in Germany.
The Hommingberg Gepardenhöhle (Cheetah Cave) was only discovered a few years ago when a speleologist noticed its unusual physical characteristics while eating the tasty trout. The conclusion that a cave system must exist prompted him to start an intensive search. Up to this point, it had been assumed that the area around Hommingberg was only slightly karstified. The surprise was all the greater when the researcher discovered a cave system that has so far been explored over a length of more than five kilometres. However, the cave system is only accessible to speleologists, for whom there are strict access restrictions due to the unusual situation.