Missouri Cave Life

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Published on: Mar. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 4, 2010

cave resources. In an effort to encourage cave visitors, land owners and resource managers to respect the natural contents, archaeological artifacts, life and water of caves, the National Speleological Society has formulated a policy on cave ethics that can be summarized by the caver's motto: Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time. Another popular motto is: Walk softly and leave no trace.

Caves are protected by many statutes, including the Missouri Cave Resources Act-- 578.200-578.225. This act protects cave owners against trespassers, vandals and water pollution through caves, sinkholes and subsurface waters. Locks, gates and doors on caves are protected.

Other statutes governing cave use can be found in the Missouri Wildlife Code, the Missouri Clean Water Law, the Missouri Dead Animal Disposal Law, the Federal Cave Resources Protection Act and the Federal Endangered Species Act

See <> for information on cave laws and codes of conduct.

Biospeleologists categorize cave organisms into groups based on their use of the cave habitat. Those that would not survive long outside of a cave are called troglobites. Missouri's rich troglobitic fauna include white and blind cavefish, millipedes, crustaceans (crayfish, isopods, and amphipods) and planaria.

Organisms living in caves but not restricted to them are called troglophiles. These organisms also live in forests, basements and other habitats. We consider most species of salamanders (except the grotto salamander) in Missouri to be troglophiles. Other troglophiles include pigmented amphipods, isopods living in cave streams and cave pools, fish that move up streams into caves and many insects.

Organisms that spend considerable time in caves but cannot complete their entire life cycle in a cave habitat are called trogloxenes. They might use a cave to hibernate, as do bears, pickerel frogs and certain moths, or they might roost in caves during the day and exit the cave at night to feed, as do bats and cave crickets.

The category accidental refers to organisms that find their way into caves but are unlikely to survive there. If they do not find their way out of the nutrient poor environment, they will probably perish. Animals that fall down sinkholes (as evidenced by some of the skulls and bones of prehistoric animals) often do not make their way back to the surface.

Cave life is vulnerable to many kinds of problems, such as disturbance or trampling, vandalism, overcollecting, enrichment by sewage and runoff, chemical pollution, pesticides (which have poisoned bats indirectly through their

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