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Twenty-Seven New Species Found In Park Caves

A three-year study of the subterranean life found in caves culminated earlier this month in an announcement by biologists and NPS staff of the discovery of at least 27 new species in the caves of Sequoia and Kings Canyon. The discoveries, all previously unknown to science, included spiders, millipedes, centipedes, pseudo-scorpions, and true bugs.

During the course of the three-year study, park staff and contract biologists from Zara Environmental in Austin, Texas, visited 30 caves in the two parks as well as five caves in Yosemite National Park. Zara Environmental specializes in work with cave animals.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have 238 known caves. Most people visit caves for the adventure of a subterranean world or to see beautiful cave formations, but below their feet and over their heads are surprising and varied animals that make caves their home. Previous work in park caves had revealed a few other specialized organisms including white and eyeless animals adapted to the ever-dark cave environment.

Because of their sensitivity to the environment, cave-adapted invertebrates can act as indicators of environmental problems or changes. If park cave animals decline, it may point to other problems in the park environment. Many of the invertebrates discovered live only in a limited area. Some of the newly discovered animals appear to only live in a single cave, while others are found exclusively in caves of the two parks.

Park staff will use the new information to monitor and study the health of these rare animals in an attempt to learn more about them, and to determine if populations are healthy. More work in the future may still reveal other new species living in the caves below the Sequoias. For more information about caves in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks visit .


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