New biodiversity hotspots identified underground

Exploring the terrestrial cave fauna

Biogeographic patterns of the cave fauna, which holds a fascination because of the bizarre morphology (eyeless, colorless, with elongated appendages) of many of the species, has proven very difficult to characterize. Caves are difficult to sample and species ranges are small (often a single cave). A recent study in the journal Ecography describes how a team of European and American scientists have for the first time ever assembled data on over 4300 records from 1600 caves in seven regions ranging in size from 2000 to 5600 km2. Using species accumulation curves and extrapolation models of total diversity, they found that hotspots occurred in areas of long-term high surface productivity and high cave density. This discovery was supported by regional data from 19 other cave areas. The authors predict that a ridge of high diversity occurs beyond the regions of Europe and North America. They suggest that that the ridge might include the southern Dinaric Mountains of southeastern Hercegovina, the western Caucasus in Georgia, the Tien Shan Mountains in Kyrgyzstan, and Shikoku Island in Japan.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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