Posted on September 9, 2012 by Tim No Comments

Ever hear of it? Most haven’t. It’s the study of cave life. I imagine when people think of cave life they first think of bats. Bats certainly do use caves as cover and safety but many caves networks are complex ecosystems. This summer a new publication was put out, Cave Life of Oklahoma and Arkansas; Exploration and Conservation of Subterranean Biodiversity.The geology of The southern United States is complex and fractured. There are a number of cave systems that meander and wind and connect in such that an entire unknown world has evolved to make best use of these places. These caves are filled with mud, streams, lakes, caverns, and cracks, and crevices. And in the dark and cool and damp  caves intrepid explorers went looking for what is in there. My good friend Dante Fenolio did some of his graduate work in Oklahoma and fell into the world of caving. He would share with me some of his events and photos of the strange things they were finding. This new book is the result of his participation with G.O. Graening and Michael Slay to study, survey, and document the cave systems of Oklahoma and Arkansas. In it they document well over 1300 species covering 8 Phyla. Most of these are the arthropod invertebrates but many people would also be surprised at the number of recognizable ‘big’ animals such as fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Of course I am keen on the wonderful salamander species that have been found in these ghostly worlds. Most of these animals have become highly specialized and many are little understood and need of protection. Cave ecology is complex and generally thought to be somewhat stable; working on the scale of geological time and not able to cope with the immediate threat and change brought by people. Give this book a read and check out the fantastic photography.

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