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Inventory of Florida's Cave Invertebrates

cave crayfish image over cave entrance from below by Jonathan D. Mays

Florida has several hundred terrestrial caves, many still unmapped. At present, 27 invertebrates obligate to cave ecosystems have been included on Florida's Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) list, along with 3 cave-associated mammals, and 1 cave obligate amphibian. The majority of Florida’s SGCN cave invertebrates are aquatic (e.g., crayfish, amphipods, isopods) but 3 terrestrial species (2 cave spiders and a springtail) are also included.  Additional biodiversity awaits discovery in Florida’s caves, particularly for the under-sampled terrestrial microinvertebrates (e.g., spiders, opiliones, mites, collembola, beetles, flies) and in karst windows outside previously surveyed areas. Furthermore, supplementary inventories are needed to better understand distributional patterns and evolutionary relationships for this complex regional fauna. In addition to filling an inventory gap, this project is reviewing previous studies in order to assess and map cave diversity hotspots in Florida and identify karst regions and faunal groups in need of further investigation.

This long-term project started in 2015. Thus far, biologists have surveyed over 100 caves and found at least one potentially undescribed species, a pseudoscorpion, along with several new distribution records. Stay tuned to learn what else we find!

potentially undescribed pseudoscorpion by Jonathan D. Mays

Potentially undescribed pseudoscorpion.