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Speleobiology, the study of cave life, is a relatively new science.
The diversity of species that live in caves, springs, and aquifers
is just beginning to be documented, and much of the underground
world has yet to be explored. The surveys of cave life reported in
this book represent an important step forward in understanding the
biodiversity of caves in Oklahoma and Arkansas.
The project whose research led to the publication of "Cave Life of
Oklahoma and Arkansas" began in the 1970s as a study of Ozark
cavefish and expanded to encompass two states and involve a number
of research topics and collaborators. The authors and their team
donned snorkeling gear, cave suits, and climbing harnesses and
descended into caves in Oklahoma and Arkansas to study, inventory,
and photograph this hidden world.
The result is a comprehensive checklist of the region's cave
fauna, complete with descriptions of these rare animals'
distribution and ecological niches. The cast of characters ranges
from familiar and charismatic species, such as cave crayfish and
gray bats, to rare and bizarre fauna, such as blind salamanders and
cave dung beetles. More than 175 full-color illustrations include
stunning, never-before-seen photographs (from the cameras of Dave
Bunnel, Tim Ernst, and Dante B. Fenolio, among others)of cave
animals--even some newly discovered species. The authors also
address conservation of subterranean biodiversity, discussing not
only threats to cave life such as invasive species, resource
extraction, and habitat loss, but also current methods of
preservation and protection, including legislation, land
acquisition, people management, and cave gates. The book's
appendices provide a comprehensive cave bibliography and checklists
of subterranean animals for each cave.
Speleology is critical to science. Subterranean organisms are key
indicators of groundwater quality, and their adaptations can lead
to advances in medicine. "Cave Life of Oklahoma and Arkansas
"advances our knowledge of, and can thus help us save, subterranean
ecosystems--among the world's last frontiers.