Cold, wet, dark… but lifeless? Certainly not! Caves are home to many weird and wonderful lifeforms with special adaptations that make living in this inhospitable environment possible. Here are our top ten troglobiotic species!
Strangely our first selection doesn’t live in caves at all. The scientific name of the winter wren Troglodytes troglodytes means cave dweller but this name actually comes from the way it hunts insect prey by nipping in and out of cracks and crevices.
No-eyed big-eyed wolf spider
When you spend all your time in the dark eyes become an unnecessary but expensive organ to maintain. Many cave species have lost their eyes altogether resulting in an identity crisis for the no-eyed big-eyed wolf spider.
Alabama cave crayfish
A life without sunshine makes protective pigmentation unnecessary. For the Alabama cave crayfish this adaptation has made its shell translucent so it’s possible to have a peek at its insides.
Colonies of fungus gnat larvae hang silk threads covered in sticky beads of slime from cave roofs to catch their prey. These gruesome youngsters use bioluminescence to lure flying insects into their dangling traps.
Another pigment free cave dweller is this species of velvet worm, it is one of only two troglobiotic velvet worms to have ever been discovered.
When asked to think of animals that live in caves bats are likely to spring to mind, but many bats don’t roost in caves at all, preferring a nice snug hollow in a tree. The Madagascan rousette is one species of bat that will roost in caves.
This cave salamander is also known as the human fish. Apparently its fleshy skin makes it resemble a small person. Subterranean darkness must be the only place that this beast could be mistaken for a human!
Iran cave barb
Like most cave species the range of the Iran cave barb is highly restricted. This fish has only been found in one subterranean river system in south-west Iran.
Nelson cave spider
The Nelson cave spider is an ambush predator that hunts in the complete darkness of its limestone cave habitat. It is New Zealand’s only protected spider and also its largest.
The cave catfish is found in the Aigamas Cave in Namibia. An opportunistic feeder it’s only apparent food source is the particles that fall into the lake from the cave above including bat droppings and animal carcasses.
Have you found an interesting cave species on ARKive that doesn’t feature in our top ten? If so, tell us about it!
Eleanor Sans, ARKive Media Researcher