TriTrogs General Meeting

NC Museum of Natural Sciences
March 27, 2012

General socializing 7:30 to 7:39
Meeting start 7:40

Attendees: 13 Cavers: Carlin Kartchner, Avery Chipka, Martin Groenewegen, Ava Pope, Riley Warhime, Hovering Head of Rob Harris (live via ethernet), Nick Henderson, Mark Daughtridge, Bryce Schroeder, Peter Hertl, Ken Walsh, Ryan Zelstead, Jacob Jackson

During Introductions every one told what State they were born in. Newcomer Avery just moved here from Florida and is a veteran cave diver and mentioned that it’s theoretically possible through a network of caves to swim all the way across that state underground. Surprisingly few of the TriTrogs are originally from North Carolina.

Old Business

New Business
(Officers are trying to handle any actual business outside of the grotto meetings.)

Trip Reports
Vertical Practice- about 9 cavers attended to learn and practice good techniques new to some- frog, rope walker, rack rappel, change over, etc. Included a rope on a pulley for continuous climbing. Hope to do again before convention.

“Memorial Day Cave”- (Carlin) cleanup, survey, ran out of gear to get to top, awesome looking lead up there. Too exciting of a climb, strait as a traverse. But got to old brittle flows tossed hammer as a grappling hook, tether to drill caught fall sixty feet up then. 200 ft climb led to 10 ft of passage. Long crawl w pack eating crack, 125 ft drop Other interesting passages. Just shy of 20 miles of cave so far

Wilderness First Aid- Up early for Martin, Class was worthwhile and enjoyed by Martin, Mark, Ken, Peter and Matthew L. plus 4 climbers. CPR training needed to round out, Avery CPR instructor, Avery and Martin to discuss options for group CPR training and rates

Ava- subway in NYC has soda straws forming on the ceilings

Norman Cave- (Rob) beginners, good group, cold water, some folks got cold, great white way target didn’t get to, WVACS was good place to stay

Upcoming Trips
March 31-4/1 small cave in Smyth county fluorescent light on inverter, photo trip, 1461 ft cave, still confirming trip w/ land owner, Contact Bryce or Matthew Weiss if interested. Day trip

March 30-Apr 1 Cave Rescue Class Harrisonburg, VA See See Mark D. Class reported as full

Apr 7–8 Grand Caverns Restoration Cleanup Weekend See Ken, clean formations, trash, change light bulbs etc Ava, Matthew Lubin, Bryce and Ken likely going. About 40 cavers total. Leave Friday night
4-14 Cyclops cave survey, Vertical 6 miles mapped so far, 11 short rope drops, waterfalls, re-belays, tyrolean/zip, to survey bottom of cave
Apr 20–22 Cold Sink Cave Survey- See Carlin. Jacob, Ken, Dave also going. Dress warmly. Vertical not required, but optional. Multiple survey teams. Leave/return times TBD by group.

Apr 27–29 Spring VAR Poor Farm Festival Grounds, Williamsburg, WV See
Good gear vendors- Avery going.

5/5 Dave Duguid, going on family trip w/ Dawson age 11. Others welcome. Zip line next day?, Cave TBD

5/4-6 SERA Summer Cave Carnival
May 25–28 Kentucky SpeleoFest
June 24-29 NSS Natnl Convention Lewisburg/ Greenbrier Cnty WV (5hr drive) See
July 13-15 Grotto Trip- good for beginners, fun, see Ken
Early Aug- Copenhaver’s Cleanup 8/11-12

Busted Turtle Cave map now published, Smyth county VA, (pit above Cotton)


Program – Peter Hertl on Biospeleology, PhD Dept Entomology NCSU
Basic Cave Biology
Books- used book stores- The Live of The Cave by Pulson, from 1966, still one of the best overviews $20 or less fun even as coffee table book good illustrations
Cave Live, by Culver, very technical, no photos, less fun

Distribution of caves- cool map of caves with bio distribution
Trogloxene- cave visitors, must return to surface (bats etc)
Troglophile cave lover can live whole life in cave but can also be outside
Troglobite, cave dweller ONLY.
Troglodyte- humans only cave dwellers stayed near entrances, example of trogloxene
Accidentals- like busted turtles, snakes, etc, deer, cattle etc. snakes may live a while but don’t thrive

Cave zones, entrance, variable temps, sunlight, green vegetation, can be large, often very small
Twilight zone less light, minor temp changes, minimal plant life
Dark Zone, no light, constant temp

Diff Habitats- Streams, pools, may or not be surface connected
Cracks, crevices,
Organic debris
Rock and formations- bacteria live in rocks miles underground. Crystal cave biologist searching for bacteria w/I crystals (see Nat geo video)
Temperate – little organic matter, seasonal bats, no flooding, only periodic flooding, low temps, hard living, low #, many adaptations, old guano hard and dry from former large populations of bats
vs Tropical caves- much organic matter, year rnd bats, much guano, rainy season floods, high temps, easy living, high numbers and few adaptations (many roaches etc)
factors for life- darkness, limited food supply, conservation of energy, pre-adaptation before they got into caves
Food pyramid outside vs inside caves
Food web based on plants outside, but no plants in cave.
In cave starts with material washed in from outdoors, bat guano, etc. no energy originates in cave.
Populations sparse and spread in caves
Typical modifications white, reduced eyes/eyeless, slow metabolism, omnivore/predator, elongated appendages- to detect predators or prey
Pigments for warning, attracting mates etc, protection from solar damage, camo, etc. pigment production takes energy so natural advantage to have no pigment or eyes.
Birds, shrews etc burn lots of energy and need much food and do poorly if in a cave

Preadaptation– echolocation in bats good example. Developed for foraging outside for nocturnal flight and finding prey
Other characteristics- nocturnal, non visual sensory systems, touch/chemo sensation/smell, tolerate or need moist environment- mostly damp in east/tropics, live in the region, slow metabolism, live in cracks, crevices or soil, feed on detritus, predators
What lives in caves?
Tartigrades- live in soil, interstitial liquids, water bearers
Mites- in all soil
Many others
We generally can’t observe the above.

Fungi- may see them growing on organic matter, wood, extend mysillium out looking for other sources (looks like veins in lungs etc)

Terrestrial arthropods- many legs and crunch when squashed exoskeleton
Centipedes are predators some have poison jaws, one pair of legs per segment may see in houses
Red colors may warn of poison to other predators can get 30 in long in tropics
Millipedes, most feed on detritus, bacteria, fungi 2 pairs of legs per segment.

May be lots of very small entrances for critters much closer to what appears to us to be deep into the cave- tree roots etc from surface
Some true cave millipedes- white, antennae (not seen on outsiders)
Arachnids- spider like things. Includes scorpions, pseudoscorpions (very small)
Meta Americana a troglophile, – very sparse webs, wait and grab strategy, usually closer to entrance, small flies drawn in w/ airflow

Daddy long legs- in twilight zone in huge mass of 100 or so and come in and out of the cave
Can find mites on spider legs or other insects, could be feeding or just traveling with them
Ticks have 8 legs but very rare in a cave

Raccoons just visitors and would stay w/i twilight zone mostly.

Small Insects:
Cave Silverfish, very long antennae
Collembola feed on detritus, feces, fungus
May notice in large colonies. “Springtails” that they jump with. May see them on water surface 1/3 size of a grain of rice

Cave beetles, most are outsiders. Most predatory. Metallic, shiny, black in gardens, can be more reddish in cave types. Very small, feed on cricket eggs etc. have to look hard to find them

Cave crickets, related to camel crickets which can live in caves, like moisture, long antennae, very well adapted because like dark and wet

Aquatic cave invertebrates:
Isopods- pill/sow bugs example terrestrial isopod. All others live in water
Very small, white, long appendages, no apparent eye ¾ inch body length or less
Wait and stare at water a long long time to see them. Move slowly
Amphipods- small aquatic crustacean, very small < ¼ inch look a bit like shrimp, sea monkeys, brine shrimp Crayfish- water flows into/out of cave- crayfish can transition into cave from either direction, feed on organic matter, fish, etc, can be far back in caves but still brown. Wander for miles as long as find food. Lots of species of crayfish. Some nocturnal Troglobitic Crayfish- eyeless, pigmentless, very long antennae, extended more delicate claw
Do a lot of sitting around. Sit and wait for prey, don’t draw attention from predators

(Peter’s HS biology teacher was cave biologist. )

Kentucky Cave Shrimp

Cave dwelling vertebrates w/ backbone
Bats, rats, birds, amphibians, fish
Rats- tame same as pack rats/woodland rat, find nests sticks, film cans, beer tab, wrapper
Can be far back but usually near entrance
Less common now than past. Rodent diseases may have decimated, fairly cute so not hunted by people much

Only true cave dwelling bird is the South American Oilbird/ or Watchita (spelling?), see glow of their eyes like raccoon eyes, high nest above cave floor, over water . Can echolocate. Audible click
Oilbirds feed on seeds of tropical fruit trees. Wide ranging, spread seeds, vital to rare seeds. Sprouts in bird guano within cave even back in dark, grow a bit white/green and then die w/o light

Texas Cave Salamander one of most adapter.
Some highly/exclusively aquatic
Wait patiently for slightest vibration in the water and attack quickly
Were first discovered from wells

Tenn Cave salamander paddle like tail

Spring salamander in VA, NC, etc,
Neotenic- adults keep juvenile characteristics- such as gills normally lost in adults outside of caves
May only be white in larval or adult stage

Slimy Salamander- lays eggs on land, are accurately named. Can be up to 4 inches
Cave fish – (mammoth cave picture), just hover and wait
Chemosensory, lateral line- sensitive to vibrations

Threats to cave biota:
Mining and development
Siltation- dirt particles from land moving equipment
Pesticides, chemicals, fertilization
Pollution, industrial, human, animal waste
Sealing cave entrances- gating much better- all energy must come in from outside

Leave No Trace and watch where you step!!!

After the meeting– Armadillo Grill (no Armadillos or Cave Biota were harmed in the making of after meeting festivities.)