Caves: an inhabited area

Cave environment, dark and mysterious, has always stimulated man’s fantasy, provoking a mixture of curiosity and fear. Man has envisioned cave inhabitants as being arcane and fantastic, often related to the netherworld and worship of  the dead: in western cultures they were seen as evil and devilish, but for many others such as the oriental ones, they were (and in many cases still are) positive supernatural beings that gave protection and brought good luck. Further studies and knowledge on this particular environment made us understand that caves are not home to devils or dragons, but to a micro fauna of tiny and shy beings, difficult to observe but interesting for studies on evolution and management of the environment.
Special biologists  
Biospeleology is a zoology branch that studies animals, big and small, that live in caves, their life cycle and how they have adapted to life in environments with particular characteristics.
Man’s interest in cave inhabitants dates back to a very long time ago: in a cave on the Pyrenees (France) a bison bone was found on which 15.000 years ago an ancestor of ours had drawn an insect that is easy to find in our caves nowadays: a grasshopper which belongs to the Troglophilus species (trogo means cave and philo means friend). Anyway the first scientific descriptions of cave animals date around 1500, and only in 1700 researchers started to be interested systematically in this kind of environment. Biospeleology was born in 1907 thanks to the work done by a Rumanian naturalist called Racovitza, that started off modern day-type studies. Initially biospeleology focused on animals that lived in caves, but as they progressed in their studies, researchers have realized that for smaller animals (such as insects, spiders and other Arthropods) small cracks or tiny shaded valleys have the same environmental characteristics as caves. This way the term biospeleology has broadened to include the study of all types of  organisms that live in environments similar to caves.

 

Special reports

From the Multimedia section

Facts

  • 24 February 2011

    And in underground tunnels?

    There are groups of terrestrial animals that eat insects, worms and other invertebrates...

    13 May 2011

    A walk underground

    The longest caves in the world are in Kentucky, the caves of Mammoth...

  • The climate underground

    Going down deep in the Earth’s crust, the temperatures increase gradually...

    Can you breathe in a cave?

    One of the most common beliefs is that in caves the air is often stuffy...

  • Amphibians in a cave

    Proteus is an amphibian of white-yellowish or light pink colour...

    Ice in caves

    In high mountain or high latitude environments, many caves can contain ice deposits...

  • 24 February 2011

    And in underground tunnels?

    There are groups of terrestrial animals that eat insects, worms and other invertebrates...

  • 13 May 2011

    A walk underground

    The longest caves in the world are in Kentucky, the caves of Mammoth...

  • The climate underground

    Going down deep in the Earth’s crust, the temperatures increase gradually...