RESOURCES: Meet Some Troglodytes

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Science  10 May 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5570, pp. 987
DOI: 10.1126/science.296.5570.987d

Like many other cave dwellers, this stubby Ogilbia pearsei fish from the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico has dispensed with skin pigment and eyes altogether. To learn more about the life lurking in underwater caves, try some scientific spelunking at this site from Texas A&M University, Galveston. Aimed at everyone from taxonomists to divers, the cave biology compendium focuses on the denizens of anchialine caves, which brim with salt water but aren't directly connected to the ocean. According to site creator Thomas Iliffe, a marine biologist, some lineages of organisms in these caves might date back to more than 200 million years ago, when the continents were still united.

Exploring submerged caves is “the most dangerous science,” Iliffe says, but recent forays by adventurous divers have nabbed 250 new species and even a previously unknown class of crustaceans. At the 3-year-old site, you'll find species lists for the caves of the Bahamas, Bermuda, and the Yucatán. There's also a gallery and technical descriptions of some of the pallid fishes, washed-out crustaceans, sponges, and worms that have evolved in these isolated habitats.

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