Acknowledgement: Thanks are due to Dr Kenny Travouillon, WA Museum, for assistance with skeleton identification.
SO WHAT ELSE LIVES IN CAVES?
Apart from the troglofauna, a variety of other forms of life – or signs of past life – are encountered in caves.
The Stygofauna, or subterranean water-dwelling animals, are at home where permanent water is found in caves. They may include fish, shrimps, eels, and an enormous variety of tiny crustaceans called amphipods.
Stygobiont species display the same kinds of adaptations to underground life as troglofauna – loss of eyesight, reduced skin pigmentation (colour), and a slow metabolism which means that they need to eat less frequently.
Stygofauna may be seen or sampled by researchers and ‘dry cavers’ searching at the water’s edge or snorkelling where the water does not entirely fill the cave.
Where the cave is entirely flooded and only the cave divers can venture, they may encounter primitive life in the shape of Microbial Mantles built by bacterial communities.
Fungi and moulds may be found in caves where organic matter is decaying, including on the droppings of visiting animals. Where a cave opens to the surface only through a vertical shaft, it may act as a ‘pit trap’ for unwary animals which fall in and are unable to escape. These creatures, which never intended to be in the cave, are known as ‘Accidentals’.
Fossils can tell us about the cave environment in the distant past, and about the creatures that used to live in the area, while Archaeological Material reveals the past relationships of people and caves.
And, of course, you might encounter Cavers …