• Speleothems in Miller's Chapel.

    Oregon Caves

    National Monument Oregon

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  • Haunted Candlelight Tours

    Haunted Candlelight Tours Offered Sunday, October 26 through Friday, October 31, 2014. The tour begins at 4pm and are first come first serve. The tour is limited to 12 people per group. Last regular cave tour will be at 3pm.

Isolation Through Climate

Mountains create more isolation through climate, geological and disturbance diversity than lowlands and so often have more species, especially at middle elevations. The Klamath-Siskiyous also may have shielded life from the second worst disaster ever 65 million years ago. Even the timing was bad coming after and during great outpourings of carbon dioxide from Siberian volcanoes. North America was the worst hit, being covered by a lateral blast from a seven to ten mile wide asteroid traveling over 20 times faster than a bullet. First to spread across North America was a cloud of hot vaporized rock. Next was a tidal wave likely hundreds of times higher than the one in the Indian Ocean. Seawater probably washed over our continent except perhaps the top of the Klamath-Siskiyous-Belt Mountains.

When ejected rock fell red-hot back to earth, even wet wood burned for there was 10% more oxygen back then. Forests became ash except perhaps for serpentine and shale areas in the high Klamath-Siskiyous and Appalachians. A “nuclear winter” was followed by super-warming by carbon dioxide from vaporized rock. And we complain about our weather! Only one primate apparently survived, appropriately named Purgatorius.

 

Treeless or wet habitats may have saved some of our relict plants, such as darlingtonia, kalmiopsis, darmara and meadowfoam. Unfortunately we don’t know fossils or molecular clocks that could confirm this.

Remember when we were told that only cockroaches would survived a nuclear holocaust? Well, DNA indicates that the wood roach (Cryptocercus) began diverging from Appalachian roaches around this time, suggesting that the end-Cretaceous catastrophe created a big gap between the two populations for the first time.

Unlike the Gulf of Mexico crater, wood roaches are no smoking guns. Because the Klamath-Siskiyous may be the oldest continuous mountain systems in North America, it’s more likely that they accumulated diversity rather than being just a refuge at end-dinosaur times. The Appalachians should have accumulated more than our mountains because they rose earlier, but erosion reduced them to hills for a very long time. Our mountains’ great geo-diversity also provided thousands of habitats that not only increased speciation through isolation but also provided enough habitats for species to “hop over” to adjacent ones more suitable to them under a new climate, thus reducing extinctions.

If the dinosaur-killing asteroid was the second worst disaster for life, what’s the worst? That’s another topic, one on cave marble.

Did You Know?

a volunteer takes measures of the faults inside of Oregon Caves

One of the largest cave restoration projects in the nation occurred at Oregon Caves during the 1980s and 1990s. Furthermore, most of the work was done by volunteers! Volunteers still make an important contribution to the park. Learn more about current volunteer opportunities at Oregon Caves. More...