The Isopods Go Swimming Two By Two...

Biologic inventory is a survey of cave animals in their native habitat. This aspect of speleology requires some knowledge, and probably a bit of direction, but hardly a degree in biology. This is just a large term for cave critter observation and counting. You do need to be able to tell an isopod from an amphipod, but no dissection is required (or even permitted.)

Amazingly, there have not been extensive, statewide studies made of most cave animals. Endangered bats, cavefish and a few other species have been widely reported on, usually by people affiliated with the Missouri Department of Conservation, who have the necessary permits to seek endangered or threatened species. Invertebrate Fauna from Missouri Caves and Springs by James E. Gardner is a fairly comprehensive 20 year old study of invertebrates. Dr. Michael Sutton and associates have done more recent work, and Dr. Bill Elliott, MDC cave biologist, is compiling a statewide cave biodiversity database. For many years, Dr. David Ashley has conducted cave invertebrate ecology studies. Many academics have studied the fauna of this cave or that species.

Dr. Dave Ashley with a "critter trap"

But a comprehensive overview of cave life in this state does not yet exist, and more work is needed. As recently as 1999, a species of cave crawfish new to science was discovered here, and undoubtably other undescribed species exist in there.

Missouri Western State College students doing Bioinventory in a dark cave

What does it take? Mainly an observant eye, a notebook and pencil, and some way to key the animals--that is, to know which is which.

2003 Jo Schaper.

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