Life in Caves
Cave-dwelling animals, or troglofauna, fall into three groups, according to how much time the organism spends in the cave.
Troglobites live permanently underground and cannot survive outside the cave environment. In these creatures, senses such as touch and smell are heightened – they may develop long antennae or sensory hairs to help them move around and find food – while under-used senses such as eyesight, as well as skin pigmentation (colour), may be lost.
Food for a troglobite may include vegetable matter; bacteria; the eggs, carcases and droppings of trogloxene species; or even, in some cases, other troglobites!
Troglophiles (‘cave lovers’) are creatures which can survive outside the cave, but may prefer to live in it. Examples include some beetles and cockroaches. Troglophiles are usually partially cave-adapted, and capable of completing their life-cycle there.
Trogloxenes (‘cave visitors’) are creatures which use the cave for shelter, perhaps to roost, give birth or hibernate), but cannot live their whole lives there. They have no particular adaptations to life in caves. Familiar examples are bats.
Together, troglophiles and trogloxenes make up the non-troglobites. Years of study may be needed to know whether a particular species is a troglophile or a trogloxene!
The zones of a cave. While troglobites thrive in the deep cave zone, non-troglobites generally favour the outer zones.
Acknowledements: Thanks are due to Drs Bill Humphreys, Tim Moulds, Julianne Waldock and Corey Whisson, all of the WA Museum, for assistance with species identification. If you find any inaccuracies, please let us know via the Contact form