Road Work at Great Basin National Park
Beginning July 8, 2014 and continuing through the end of August there will be road work at Great Basin National Park on paved roads throughout the park. Delays of 10 minutes or less may occur. Updated 7/22/2014 More »
Life survives in caves by adapting to the unusual habitat. Because sunlight does not penetrate beyond the twilight zone of a cave, the area just inside the entrance, plants that must capture energy from sunlight cannot grow. Therefore, the cave ecosystem is based on nutrients entering the cave via water and outside organisms venturing into the cave and depositing guano, eggs, debris, or their carcasses. These nutrients are in turn used by the organisms that spend their entire life cycles in the cave environment.
New Cave Species Discovered
Bacteria in Caves
Trogloxenes and Troglobites
The nesting material brought into the cave and droppings left behind by these temporary residents is a major source of nourishment for another type of animal known as a troglobite.
Troglobites are species that spend their entire life cycles in caves and include cave crickets, spiders, psuedoscorpions and the smaller mites and springtails. Often troglobites have adapted to the cave environment through morphological changes such as the loss of eyes and pigment and lengthening of appendages, as is seen in the cave dipluran. Though adapted to survive in the unique cave environment, they are dependent on organic material packed in by other animals or washed in from the surface. They often must optimize meals that are few and far between.
Navigating in the Dark
Park rangers are trying to reduce these effects on the cave by turning out lights when tours are not in the cave and by not allowing visitors to bring food or beverages on tours.
Learning About Cave Life
Learning as much as we can about cave life has the potential to affect our own lives. Recently, scientists have found bacteria in caves that might have medical benefits. The first step, though, is to preserve these species by protecting the cave environments they live in.
Did You Know?
The Bonneville cutthroat trout is the only trout native to Great Basin National Park and East Central Nevada. Ancestors of the current Bonneville cutthroat trout were abundant in ancient Lake Bonneville 16,000 to 18,000 years ago, the remnant of what is now the Great Salt Lake in Utah.