As with all of my images posted here, they are for your enjoyment and are not public domain, all are copyrighted. Please do not copy, download, post online, or reuse in any fashion the photographs that I have posted without express written permission to do so. Any use of my images must be approved in writing. To access the images I have posted, you must click on the subject heading link above. By doing so, your action serves as legal recognition of my stated copyright restrictions, it signifies your willingness to use the images only after written permission is provided, and it acknowledges that failure to follow the rules is a violation of international copyright law. Thank you for your cooperation.
Since 2000, I’ve been fortunate to have been able to work with US Fish and Wildlife agents, state wildlife officials, as well as research biologists and visit a number of caves in North America with interesting subterranean wildlife. Of all of my field work, many of the questions I have emailed to me revolve around subterranean wildlife. So I thought I’d start the blog with a few short comments and a number of related images to North American subterranean biodiversity.
- The Alabama Cave Fish (Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni) is a single site endemic (only known from one locality). It is widely considered one of the most endangered fish in North America. I thank B. Kuhajda for the opportunity to photograph this specimen.
- A close-up of the head of the Alabama Cave Fish (Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni) reveals its lateral line system. I thank B. Kuhajda for the opportunity to photograph this specimen.
- The Ozark Cave Fish (Amblyopsis rosae) is a federally listed threatened species. It is endemic to the Ozark Plateaus Ecoregion. This individual was photographed in Oklahoma.
- The Southern Cave Fish (Typhlichthys subterraneus) has the largest range of any subterranean fish in North America. This individual was photographed in Tennessee. I thank my good friend, Matt Niemiller, for the opportunity to photograph this specimen.
- In the Ozarks, the Bristly Cave Crayfish (Cambarus setosus) has been found in more localities than any other obligate groundwater crayfish species (stygobite) in the region. I thank Dr. A. Brown for the opportunity to photograph this specimen.
Endemic to Oklahoma, the Delaware County Cave Crayfish (Cambarus subterraneus) is known from just several localities.
Endemic to Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Cave Crayfish (Cambarus tartarus) is also known from only three subterranean localities.
The Orange Lake Cave Crayfish (Procambarus lucifugus lucifugus) is endemic to a relatively small area of Florida. I thank P. Moler for the opportunity to photograph this specimen.
The Miami Cave Crayfish (Procambarus milleri) is found in the subterranean waters below the Miami area. While it is only known from subterranean waters, it is believed to be a recent invader (relatively speaking). The species still has functional visual structures and a higher degree of pigmentation. I thank P. Radice of the Angels Fish Hatchery, FL, USA for the opportunity to photograph this specimen.
Of all of the cave crayfish, the Spider Cave Crayfish (Troglocambarus maclanei) from Florida is believed to have the most modified body form for a subterranean existence. Aside from greatly reduced pigmentation and visual structures, its chelae (pinchers) are thin, weak and delicate, its legs are attenuate (more slender - spider-like), and it attains a diminutive adult size relative to other crayfish; adults are only a couple of inches in size. They live on the ceilings of flooded subterranean passageways. I thank P. Moler for the opportunity to photograph this specimen.
Only known from the Arbuckles of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Cave Amphipod (Allocrangonyx pellucidus) is a relatively large groundwater amphipod that has greatly reduced visual structures and pigmentation.
Some species of groundwater isopods (Caecodotea) in the Ozarks can approach an inch in total length.
This aggregation of groundwater isopods (Caecidotea macropropoda) was an amazing thing to witness in the Ozarks of Oklahoma.
The Ozark Blind Cave Salamander (Eurycea spelaea) is the only subterranean salamander that undergoes predictable and regular metamorphosis from an aquatic larval stage to a terrestrial adult (Gyrinophilus subterraneus, the Wester Virginia Spring Salamander, may be another exception but more data is needed to answer that question). All other obligate subterranean salamanders are paedomorphic with infrequent metamorphosis.
I studied Ozark Blind Cave Salamanders (Eurycea spelaea) for my Masters work at the University of Oklahoma. My research site was in the Ozarks of Oklahoma. Here is an image of an aquatic larvae, found deep within a cave system, that had little pigmentation.
This is a recently metamorphosed adult Ozark Blind Cave Salamander (Eurycea spelaea). Notice the smaller, degenerating eyes, the eye lids that are beginning to grow over them, and the reduced pigment.
In older Ozark Blind Cave Salamanders (Eurycea spelaea) notice that the eyes are reduced to small dark lumps. In some animals, the eye lids grow over the vestigial eyes.
The West Virginia Spring Salamander (Gyrinophilus subterraneus) is known only from a single cave. I was fortunate enough to participate in a survey of the known population for the Nature Conservancy.
Metamorphosed adult West Virginia Spring Salamanders (Gyrinophilus subterraneus) are rare, but we did encounter both life stages during our survey of their one known population.
The Texas Blind Salamander (Eurycea rathbuni) may be the most recognizable obligate subterranean salamanders to the general public. It is a federally listed endangered species. I thank J. Fries for the opportunity to photograph this specimen.
As with most groundwater salamanders, the Texas Blind Salamander (Eurycea rathbuni) is threatened by over extraction of groundwater and contamination of subterranean waters by fertilizers, pesticides, and other human produced contaminants. I thank J. Fries for the opportunity to photograph this specimen.
This is a blind, groundwater dwelling salamander from Texas (Eurycea). I thank A Gluesenkamp for the opportunity to photograph this specimen.
Here is a "face-on" look at another blind salamander from Texas (Eurycea). I thank A. Gluesenkamp for the opportunity to photograph this specimen.
The Austin Blind Salamander (Eurycea waterlooensis) is another of the many subterranean salamanders of Texas. As with the Texas Blind Salamander (E. rathbuni), there is a captive breeding facility that does quite well breeding the salamanders under artificial conditions. I thank D. Chamberlain for the opportunity to photograph this specimen.
I’ve always loved the Cave Salamander (Eurycea lucifuga). This particular individual was encountered in Missouri. It is a good example of a pigment mutation. As far as I can tell, it is partially amelanistic.
Diplurans diverged from the lineage that gave rise to modern insects before the evolution of flight; diplurans are flightless. This is a representatives of the Litocampid diplurans. Notice the paired, long and delicate cerci attached to the last body segment.
Japygid diplurans look (superficially) like earwigs.
This trichoniscid isopod (Miktoniscus oklahomensis) is a terrestrial cave dweller from the Arbuckles of Oklahoma.
Opilionids are arachnids, related to spiders and scorpions. They are not uncommon in caves and there are a few subterranean species. This one was photographed in the Appalachians of Tennessee.