Cave divers who venture further into subterranean waters discover primitive life forms deep in the underwater realm. These sheets, curtains and gelatinous forms, built of bacteria or microbes, were photographed in various water caves of the Nullarbor Plain.

 

MicrobialMantle1

 

MicrobialMantle2

 

MicrobialMantle3

 

MicrobialMantle4

 

MicrobialMantle5

Fungi are often found growing on decaying organic matter in caves.

 

PurpleFungus

This attractive purple fungus was growing from a dead fig tree root in a cave at the Cape Range. It grew to a length of ?2 cm.

 

DeadSpiderWithMould

The picture above shows a dead spider with mould growing from its body and joints, photographed in the twilight zone of a cave on the Cape Range.

Mycologist Tom May of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, writes of it:

“I cannot be certain of the genus or species without being able to confirm microscopically from spores, but it looks rather like Beauveria bassiana, the Icing Sugar Fungus.

Beauveria is a mould, the asexual stage of various species of the genus Cordyceps. Cordyceps are a pretty amazing group of fungi, which outdo any strange science fiction ideas. Their airborne spores land on an insect, usually a caterpillar or a beetle pupa, invade the living tissue, devour the living host from the inside, then cause the dying creature to move to a good place for the Cordyceps to fruit, and only then kill the host. The Cordyceps then produces a fruiting body which releases spores to carry on the life-cycle.

Cordyceps occur on a wide range of arthropods, usually insects. It is quite likely that similar-looking moulds on different hosts represent different species.
See, for example, https://www.flickr.com/photos/nzwild/5789671790, where something pretty similar on a spider is identified as Beauveria bassiana. The fungus is also growing from the joints in this one.

I’d say Beauveria-like for an identification of this image. You would have to check microscopic features to get any further.”

Kangaroo

Remains of a kangaroo (and plentiful spider webs) in a cave near Cervantes.

 

SmallMammal

Remains of a small mammal, probably a bush rat, in a cave near Augusta.

 

Frog

Skeleton of a frog in a south-west cave

 

BrushtailPossum

Skeleton of a brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) in a south-west cave

 

HoneyPossum

Skeleton of a honey possum (Tarsipes rostratus) in a south-west cave

 

DragonLizard

This Cape Range dragon lizard, Amphibolura longirostris (?), obviously met his end in a rockfall.

 

WesternCrownedSnake

Sometimes the accidentals we encounter are still alive – and they can be quite feisty! A western crowned snake (Elapognathus coronatus) in a south-west cave.

SeaUrchin

Fossils of sea urchins can be found in a number of caves in the Cape Range.

 

FossilisedSharkTooth

Remnant of the fossilised tooth (~2 cm across) of an ancient shark (Carcharon megalodon?) embedded in the limestone of a Cape Range rockshelter cave. These marine fossils indicate that the area was previously part of the coastal reef system..

 

Surface fossils give further proof of the Cape Range area’s marine origins

CoralFossil

Coral fossils in surface rocks.

 

ManduCalcarenite

This heavily magnified photograph of a piece of Mandu Calcarenite (limestone) from the Cape Range reveals fossils of microscopic marine creatures (Foraminifera?)

 

The two fossils below, both from south-west caves, tell us about the creatures that lived there in the past.

PossibleWombatJawbone

Wombat (?) jawbone with other skull fragments embedded in a rock

 

PossiblePossumJawbones

Possum (?) jawbones in the roof of another cave.