Minnesota DNR study identifies possible new invertebrate species in Mystery Cave

Minnesota DNR study identifies possible new invertebrate species in Mystery Cave
Minnesota DNR study identifies possible new invertebrate species in Mystery Cave(MN DNR)
Published: Mar. 3, 2023 at 2:20 PM CST
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MYSTERY CAVE STATE PARK, Minn. (KTTC) – A recently published invertebrate survey conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) represents one of the first sampling events in Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park that focused on subterranean fauna.

The collections have identified the potential for new invertebrate species and have identified the range extension of several species.

According to the DNR, many of the invertebrate who live in the caves in the park are related to their cousins on the surface but were pressured underground due to advancing glaciers over 10,000 years ago. In order for these animals to live in a cold, wet and dark cave environment, they have had to adapt.

Most cave adapted animals no longer have pigment, eyes and have extremely long appendages. Some of these animals that were found in the caves in the park, live nowhere else in the world. These animals represent the canary in the coal mine when it comes to our groundwater. They are very sensitive to pollution and live in conditions that often do not change; constant 48°f temperature and 100% humidity.

Slight changes to that environment can destroy entire populations.

Below are the new invertebrate species and photos.

Acari: Rhagigidiidae (mite) discovered in Mystery Cave represents the first record from the park.

Araneae: Nesticidae (spider) identified in Old Mystery Cave are one of the more diverse groups of invertebrates found in caves. This spider is worthy of follow up investigation. (Photo attached)

Amphipoda: These cave adapted eyeless amphipod are the first record found in the park and represent range extensions for the Driftless Area or a new species. (Photo attached)

Bathynellacea: Bathynellacea are an order of minute groundwater crustaceans that can be found in caves and wells, and sometimes in the interstices of other water bodies (Schminke and Noodt 1988). A robust population of Bathynellacea were observed in the rimstone drip pools cascading downward from the Jabba the Hutt formation in Coon (Goliath’s) Cave, and were only visible to the naked eye upon the movement of individuals across the substrate. Although Bathynellacea have a worldwide distribution and are found on every continent except Antarctica, they are not represented in fossil records and are believed to be mostly absent from areas that had been covered by ice during the last glaciation, excepting limited recolonization of those areas (Grzimek 2004). This collection represents the first record of Bathynellacea from the Park and is a groundwater adapted (therefore cave and aquifer limited) species.

Diplopoda: Achemenides pectinata: This species has been reported from several localities in and immediately adjacent to the Driftless area, and is often found on the surface, in mines, and in caves, with cave populations sometimes having slightly reduced eyes.