1959 NSS Expedition to Wind Cave Faunal Survey of Wind Cave
The Biology Team of the Wind Cave NSS Expedition consisted of Gerald Tecklin, Robert Alex, and Stewart Peck. Little has been done in the way of extensive cave invertebrate collecting in a western cave as compared with the work done in the eastern United States. The cave life was expected to be less abundant because of the dry conditions existing in the cave, but to what extent was not known. Thus, because of this complete lack of knowledge of the cave, the team went prepared for any conditions it should meet.
Methods of Collecting
There were three procedures used in collecting the insects in the cave: traps, Berlese funnels, and aspirators.
This was the most unsatisfactory method used. The trap consisted of a peanut butter jar sunk in the cave floor with about 100 ml of Galt's solution in the jar. A bait of decaying liver was suspended in the jar. The Galt's solution was a mixture of one part of chloral hydrate, one part of potassium nitrate, five parts of sodium chloride, and one hundred parts of water. The water serves to drown the insects attracted to the trap by the liver and the chemicals will preserve the insect for up to two weeks.
The traps were all set in the Garden of Eden area of the cave. They were strategically placed in this area so as to sample various ecological niches. Collecting invertebrates by traps has yielded a wealth of specimens in eastern caves but was a definite failure in Wind Cave. After having been in the cave for over a week, the ten traps set contained only four specimens.
The funnel was charged with cave debris suspected of harboring insects and was exposed to paradichlorobenzene fumes (Figure 1). The fumes drove the insects down through the debris and through the screening on which the debris was placed. The insects then fell down the funnel and into a vial of preservative. In earlier experimentation it was found that in about 24 hours the fumes would drive out most insect life in the materials placed in the funnel.
The five funnels were recharged with new material every day. Practically everything in the cave which was suspect of containing any sort of insect life was run through the funnels. This included rotted wood brought into the cave by CCC personal in the 1930's, rat droppings, and some human excreta (with paper, an 1894 Congressional Record) found deep in a back passage. About half the insect specimens were collected using the funnels.
These were used in relation with hand collecting. This was found to be the most effective means of collecting since it limited damage of specimens and yielded a greater diversity in the collection. Aspirators are manually operated instruments with two lengths of tubing attached to the top of a central container with a vial of preservative inside the container (Figure 2). By means of suction the insects are drawn from their surroundings into the preservative.
All collecting of mammals was done by hand or with live traps. The traps consisted of a coffee can and mousetraps with a piece of hardware cloth attached (Figure 3). An animal approaching the bait stands on the hardware cloth and upon springing the trap is thrown unharmed into the can and held there by the hardware cloth over the can opening. Four mice of the genus Peromyscus were caught by the six traps used during the expedition. Of the three bats collected, the western big-eared bat was caught sleeping at the cave entrance, a myotis was found dead, clinging to the outer wall of the expedition headquarters building, and another myotis was caught sleeping in a rafter of the elevator building.
Cave rats, Neotoma, are present in the cave as was evidenced by the two rat nests found, one in the Model Room and the other in the Cathedral Room. The nests seemed to be unused when the team found them and the traps set by the nests were undisturbed. Several rangers have reported seeing the rats deeper in the cave.
The four mice captured in the cave were identified as Peromyscus maniculatus. These are surface species which have probably entered the cave by way of the entrance and undoubtedly live off garbage left by the tourists. The mice were only in the first 600 feet of the cave in the vicinity of the Post Office Room. The evidence of wood rats (cave rats) Neotoma, in the cave have been given earlier and all attempts to capture one of these animals have proved to be futile.
The bats which had been reported found in the cave are Myotis subulatus, Myotis lucifugus carissima, and Corynorhinus townsendii pallescens. Also reported from the cave is Eptesicus fucus, of which two study skins are present in the collection at the cave. Formerly reported occurrences of Antrozous pallidus and Myotis californicus are regarded as incorrect determinations. The three bats collected by our team were Corynorhinus townsendii pallescens, the western big-eared bat; Myotis volans interior, the long-legged myotis; and Myotis lucifugus, the little brown bat. The collection of M. volans is the first record of this species for the cave.2
The invertebrates collected are as follows:
At the time, the ant lion, cave cricket, ant, two larvae, and the entotrophi remain undetermined. The isopod is Cylisticus convexus (De Geer). The three anthicid beetles are Anthicus floralis (L.), a species found over most of the world. Most of the above are probably accidental cave inhabitants and are of no particular note.
The flies have been identified as follows:
Because of the fact that most of the fly specimens were females and that the taxonomy (that which has been put into workable order) is based on the male specimens, no specific determinations were possible.
The psocids have been identified as follows:
Due to the fact that no mature spiders were collected, no specific determinations are possible. Collected were two juvenile phalangids of the family Phalangiidae, one juvenile spider of the genus Phidippus, two Clubiona juveniles and nine spiders in the family Linyphiidae, of which three are penultimate males, one is an immature female and five are immature specimens. Probably none of the specimens are cave species as they display none of the characteristics of the cave types.
Most of the mites collected are in the group Mesostigmata. No other determinations have been made concerning the mites other than that there are some specimens in the family Eupodidae and some small brown Oribatei.
All collembola have been identified to species as below:
The Oncopodura has been recorded only once before in the US, and that collection was from caves in Gallatin County, Montana. The Wind Cave, South Dakota collection represents an important range extension of over 400 miles. The Parrhopalites is a tentative identification of a new species and either the first collection of the genus outside of Mexico or an entirely new genus.
There were three important finds as a result of the biology team research. A specimen of Myotis volans, the long-legged myotis, was captured and thus established a cave record for the species. Oncopodura cruciata, a species of collembola, previously known only from western Montana, was collected and thereby represents an important range extension. A new species and possible new genus of collembola was found and tentatively identified as Parrhopalites. If this collection represents only a new species and not a new genus, the range of the genus Parrhopalites is extended from Mexico to South Dakota, for Wind Cave represents the first collection of the genus in the United States.
The very sparse invertebrate life in the cave is attributed to the lack of organic debris and moisture. The few spot s in the cave which contained any debris and moisture were moderately populated, but most of the areas in the cave were practically devoid of life. The lack of a proper substrate also ruled heavily on the amount of life in the cave since most of the cave is floored with bare calcite.
The research in Wind Cave has provided an important addition to the knowledge of cave life in western states. Many caves in the eastern half of the US have been thoroughly researched, but this was the first attempt to compile a complete record of life from a western cave. The lack of moisture is the chief limiting factor of western cave life. But any careful searching in the future in any of the bigger western cave systems should uncover some more important finds in the field of cave biology.
The following people are thanked for their efforts in specimen determination: Dr. Floyd Werner of the University of Arizona for the coleoptera determination; Dr. Alan Stone, Dr. R.H. Foote, and Dr. W.W. Wirth of the US Department of Agriculture, Dr. Jean Laffoon of Iowa State University; Dr. A. Earl Pritchard of the University of California, and Dr. Gordon Gill of Northern Michigan College for their diptera determinations; Dr. Raymond Hall of the University of Kansas and Phillip Smith of the Illinois Natural History Survey for the mammal determinations; Dr. Warren T. Atyeo of the University of Nebraska for the mite identification; Dr. Willis J. Gertsch of the American Museum of Natural History for the spider and phalangid determinations; Dr. Kenneth Christiansen of Grinnell College for his collembola identifications; and Edward L. Mockford of the Illinois Natural History Survey for the psocid determinations. The biology team and all other expedition members are thanked for their part in making the biological investigation of the cave a success. Dick Hart, the Wind Cave park naturalist, deserve special thanks for assisting the biologists in every possible way.
Did You Know?
Winds caused by changes in barometric pressure are what give Wind Cave its name. These winds have been measured at the cave's walk-in entrance at over 70 mph. The winds at the natural entrance of the cave attracted the attention of Native Americans and early settlers.