Underwater Cave Survey in Quintana Roo Mexico Quintana Roo Speleological Survey


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Biospeleology: The Study of Cave Adapted Life

last updated 17 January, 2023

We have included a small portrait gallery of obligate cave species (Stygobites) that inhabit the anchialine caves of Quintana Roo. It is our hope that this gallery might assist you in identifying and appreciating a few of the residents of these caves. Should you be interested in a short narration on the history of Biospeleology in this region, click here.

  Bahalana mayana A small isopod, up to 10 mm in length, that favors a specific niche between the fresh and salt water zones (the halocline). This animal is found in the Esqueleto (Temple of Doom) cave, and occasionally in the siphon area of the Carwash cave. They are not aggressive swimmers, displaying a rather calm habit of inspecting the thin halocline or mixing zone.
Photo: J. Carpenter  
  Creaseriella anops is a large isopod, up to 22 mm in length. They are a very common resident to most caves in the Q. Roo area. This animal can be identified by its thumbnail size. Note its silt-foraging abilities on the cave floor and spirited swimming antics. They are very active creatures.
Photo: J. Carpenter  
  Stygiomysis cokei This species, up to 21 mm in length, is one of four Stygiomysis sp. that reside in the underwater caves of Quintana Roo. These animals do not swim within the water column like the rest of local anchialine critters. Species of the Stygiomysids are "crawlers", preferring the floor, walls, and the ceiling of their cave environment. They are fast crawlers covering a meter of rock in the blink of your eye. Cave divers often dislodge these animals from the cave ceiling with their exhaust bubbles and misidentify the animal as Speleonectes tulumensis (Remipedia). Look for S. Cokei's square "head" and its pointed legs trying to grab the water. This will distinguish this animal from the Speleonectes sp. swimming action with its "legs".

Please do not disturb these animals.

Photo: Simões, N.  
  Olgilbia pearsi aka. Typhliasina pearsi is one of two vertebrate cave adapted species in the region. They are sensitive animals when confronted by cave divers. They are known to abandon popular cave diving routes for more secluded cave areas. They are also very sensitive to the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water. Many researchers consider T. pearsi as an important indicator of the health of the freshwater aquifer.

Please do not disturb these animals.

Drawing: M. Navarro-Mendoza  
  Speleonectes tulumensis is a relatively new Genus of underwater cave animal. It is an obligate underwater cave dweller found only in the caves of the Yucatan Peninsula. There are additional species of Speleonectes.sp. that are found in other countries that support anchialine caves.

Also known as Remipedia, or "little oarsmen", they make their home below the halocline or the interface between the fresh and salt water layers. The base salt water zone contains a miniscule amount of dissolved oxygen. Other underwater cave animals will suffocate in this low-oxygen environment. It appears as though Speleonectes tulumensis has few if any natural predators.

Speleonectes tulumensis is armed with what we believe to be a "stinger" connected to a venom gland. This venom injection system may be used to stun the prey it hunts.

Please do not disturb these or other cave animals.

Photo: Science 360.gov


  Conservation of Caves and Cave Adapted Animals is Vital

Please do not attempt to collect biological or geological specimens within any dry or underwater cave. Sampling of cave life or cave materials must be supervised directly by a speleologist who is familiar with and licensed to collect biological or physical samples from the natural environment of the cave. Your actions, if not directly supervised, will ultimately contribute to unnecessary damage to the cave and its life.

Follow this link if you are concerned about the growing problem of underwater cave incursions by Astyanax mexicanus and declining Troglobitic populations in Quintana Roo caves. 


Updates and corrections are welcome: chac<at>consolidated.net

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