Curiosities

Animals that live in caves

Inside the caves, although they can often be inhospitable places due to their dark conditions, there is a great variety of species, some known and many others still undiscovered. From this point of view, both underwater caves and terrestrial caves are environments that generate special interest in the adaptations of the animals that live in them, which are called troglobes .

Hausera hauseri is the only species that makes up the genus Hauseri. It is an organism that lives exclusively in the aquatic subterranean environment , which is known as stigobia. Adapted to the conditions of the environment it inhabits, this flatworm, located in the karst zone of Felipe Guerra – a hotspot located in northeast Brazil – lacks body and eye pigments , both known adaptations of animals that live in caves.

Furthermore, as Leal-Zanchet, De Souza and Ferreira (2014) point out in their study, it stands out for its reproductive peculiarities, such as, for example, the location of the ovaries in the back of the brain, in female specimens.

Eurycea rathbuni is an amphibian, as its name suggests, endemic to Texas (United States). Their appearance and functionality are the result of the dark conditions in which these salamanders have been submerged. Such is this that they lack eyes and pigmentation , the skin being a very sensitive organ to possible changes in the environment (for example to changes in movement in the water), which even allows it to detect where its prey are located. In addition to all this, when living in environments that are aquatic, E. rathbuni shows other adaptations, such as atrophy in its thin limbs, not having to support its weight, and the gills that allow it to breathe underwater.

The distribution of this dark and humid habitat is restricted to isolated and specific areas. In fact, it is only possible to see E. rathbuni in the state of Texas, more specifically in a network of caves in the city of San Marcos, where its main food is shrimp.

Currently, with less than 100 specimens , its conservation status according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service is considered endangered in the United States, while, according to the IUCN, its status is one of vulnerability at a global level. Some of the threats faced by this species are: great sensitivity to any type of change in water quality that reduces its chances of survival (pollution by urban and industrial wastewater); the overexploitation of groundwater, which causes the lack of recharge of the aquifers; the massive collection of their specimens towards the decade of the 60s.

Ghost cave snail

The ghost cave snail is an aquatic gastropod, with an operculum, belonging to the Hydrobiidae family. It is endemic to Texas and its geographic distribution is limited to three springs that are in the vicinity of the city of Balmorhea, specifically in the Ghost Cave , where it inhabits hard substrates.

Currently the population densities of the ghost cave snail are very low. Over time, its conservation status has worsened until it is considered vulnerable , according to the IUCN. The threats it faces are diverse: the decrease in groundwater levels and contamination of groundwater (mainly by herbicides and pesticides used in nearby agricultural areas) that has led to severe degradation and loss of its habitat; and the introduction of Melanoides sp. , an exotic snail, whose impacts are unknown but possibly competing for space and resources with the native snail.

Finally, it should be noted that it is possible to find information on this species under the name Cochliopa texana , as this genus was initially assigned to it, however, after more detailed genetic studies it was taxonomically renamed to P. texana.

Sinopoda scurion is the only hunting spider , of the more than a thousand known species, that lacks eyes , probably as an adaptation to the absence of light in its habitat . This curious asparasid was discovered in 2012 by Peter Jäger in the Tham Khoun Xe Cave of the Xe Bang Fai river, in Laos. Also known as the crab spider, S. scurion can reach 6 cm in length with its legs and, like other hunting spiders, it is capable of moving quickly and has great hunting skills. [1]

Eupolybothrus cavernicolus

This centipede, about 30 mm long, lives in the Krka National Park of Knin (Croatia), specifically in the Karstikas Miljacka II and Miljacka IV caves. Its name is related to the fact that it is the first eukaryotic organism of whose genetic profile there is complete knowledge.

Alabama Cave Shrimp

Palaemonias alabama is a colorless shrimp that has historically been present in 4 caves in Alabama: Shelta, Bobcat, Herring-Glover and Muddy cave, being its habitat type the first of them. Among other characteristics, this species is sexually dimorphic, the females being larger than the males, it feeds by filtration and its predator is Typhlichthys subterraneus , a stigobiotic fish.

In general, all of them are affected by overexploitation and contamination (by cadmium and other chemicals in Shelta) of groundwater , which has led to their conservation being considered in danger of extinction.

Coletinia majorensis

In 2014, Coletinia majorensis , a species of cave-dwelling insect , was discovered in the Llano cave in Fuerteventura . It is the first record of the Coletinia genus, not only in the Canary Islands, but in the entire Macaronesian region. This type of insect has a body length of up to 11 mm and takes refuge in the fissures that it presents in the cave.

Proteus the anguinus

From southern Slovenia to Italy, Proteus anguinus , olm or proteo inhabits the groundwater of the karst systems , formed by limestone and sore, of the Dynamic Alps. This species that feeds on debris and invertebrates, is characterized by hiding in cracks or the sedimentary bottom against disturbances and by its longevity, since it is capable of living 12 years.

Currently, there is evidence of a decline in their populations in Goriza (Italy) and Postojna (Slovenia). In fact, the following threats have led to its conservation status being considered vulnerable: changes in land uses of forests and grasslands under which the underground water systems are located, tourism, contamination and overexploitation of aquifers and their illegal commerce.

Waterfall climbing fish

The waterfall climbing fish is an endemic animal to Thailand known for its peculiar way of moving. As its name indicates, the individuals of this species, who are also blind, despite their small size (3-8 cm), use their fins to jump or climb great distances on the rocks of the caves they inhabit, as if they were lizards. . 

The fairy of the woods

In January 2021, a species of bug known as the forest fairy  was discovered in the Valencian caves of the Sierra Calderona and les Rodanes de Vilamarxant [3] . This insect lacks eyes, it is pale and its wings are surrounded on its edges with bright blue hairs that make it look like a fairy, hence its name. They feed on the sap coming from the roots of plants present in their habitat. They also stand out for their ability to move in jumps and to glide with their wings. V. fadaforesta has become the first cave-dwelling hemiptere registered in Spanish territory.

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