An alteration or adjustment in structure or habits that an organism
makes (it is often hereditary) which improves its relationship to
its surrounding environment.
A biologist who specializes in the study of cave animal life, or
the biology of caves, karst and groundwater.
A common crystal form of natural calcium carbonate, CaCO3
(limestone, marble, and chalk).
Organisms that lives all or part of their lives in caves.
Organisms, particularly certain Bacteria and Archaea, that fix in
organic carbon (usually carbon dioxide) and use in organic compounds
or elements (e.g. hydrogen sulfide) for energy.
They are informally called "rock-eaters".
A class is a group of one or more orders
that share common characteristics. For instance, carnivores,
rodents, and whales are in different genera, but all are
included in the mammals, class Mammalia. The class is thus a
level of classification smaller
than a phylum, but larger than an order. The scientific names of classes do not have
The grouping and organizing of organisms into categories based
on the relationships between them.
The struggle between individuals of a given species
or populations of different species for the same
resource. The implication is that one individual or population loses
because of the success of another in obtaining the resource.
Organisms that feed on dead or living organic material.
For example, in caves, isopods that feed on wood or
guano are consumers.
Disintegrated or eroded matter.
A division is a group of one or more classes of
plants that share a number of common characteristics. Some divisions found
in New Mexico are the [help me out here, Tim or Chris]. The division
is thus a level of classification
smaller than a kingdom, but larger
than a class. The equivalent level of classification among animals is called
The domain is the largest grouping of living organisms. There are three
domains: Archaea, Bacteria (prokaryotes, i.e. organisms whose cells do
not have nuclei), and Eukarya (organisms whose cells have nuclei, such
as animals, plants, and fungi).
Organisms that are found only in one region or part of the
region. In cave organisms, some animals are restricted to a
A unit of geological time. Epochs are a subdivision of periods, another geological unit of time.
An era is the main division of geological time. Examples of
eras are Mesozoic and Paleozoic. Eras are divided into periods.
- Exploitation Competition
Organisms utilizing a particular prey item may
reduce the availability of that prey item, making
it less available to other organisms in what is known as exploitative
competition. An example is the eating of cricket eggs by carabid beetles
in caves. If some beetles are very successful in finding eggs, they
reduce the number of eggs available to other beetles.
A family is a group of one or more genera that share common
characteristics. For instance, domestic cats, lions, and cheetahs are
in different genera, but all are included in the cat family, Felidae.
The family is thus a level of classification
smaller than an order, but larger than a genus. The scientific names of animal families end in
-idae, and the names of plant families end in -aceae.
- Food Chain
When a coyote eats a mouse that has eaten seeds, this is an example of a
food chain. It is also an example of predator-prey relationships and details who eats whom! Eating
just mice would be a bad idea for coyotes, especially if the mice suffered
a plague and mostly died off. All of the different food chains and
their inter-relationships together form a food web.
- Food Web
The food chains and their interrelationships
make up a food web. Food webs visually display the trophic levels within an ecosystem: Decomposers
such as bacteria and fungi are the bottom trophic
level; plants or microbial primary
producers represent the bottom trophic
level, followed by the consumers. Primary consumers are herbivores, or animals that eat the
plants. The secondary and tertiary consumers
(carnivores) make up the next two trophic
A genus is a group of one or more species
that share common characteristics. For instance, domestic dogs,
wolves, and coyotes are different species
within the same genus, Canis, but foxes have enough differences
that they are placed in a different genus. The genus is
thus a level of classification
smaller than a family, but larger than a species. No two groups of animals or two groups of
plants can have the same genus name (only dogs and not fishes or beetles
can be Canis), but the rules do not prevent a plant and an animal from
having the same genus name. The plural of genus is genera.
The formation and movement of glaciers that cover portions of
the surface of the Earth.
A substance made mainly of the dung of sea birds or bats, which is
found in coastal areas or in caves. Guano can be used as fertilizer.
- Hypogenic Caves
Caves formed by rising fluids from within the Earth. Hypogenic caves are
created by sulfuric acid formed at the boundary
where rising waters rich in hydrogen sulfide meet
waters with oxygen.
- Hydrogen Sulfide Gas
Hydrogen sulfide rising along fissures inside the surface of
the Earth is converted by chemistry or microorganisms to sulfuric acid when it reaches an area with oxygen.
The sulfuric acid then carves out caves such as
the caves of the Guadalupe Mountains and other caves around the world.
- Interference Competition
The interactions between organisms trying to gain the same resource,
in which one organism's actions harm another organism's success in
obtaining that resource. In caves, carabid beetles compete for
cricket eggs and the actions of one beetle may decrease others'
ability to obtain cricket eggs. Fighting while digging for cricket
eggs or chasing a beetle that has obtained an egg are examples of
A kingdom is a group of one or more phyla or divisions that share a number of common
characteristics. The generally recognized kingdoms of eukaryotes
(organisms whose cells have nuclei) are the Animalia, Plantae, Fungi,
and Protista (single-celled organisms with a cell nucleus) The kingdom
is thus a level of classification smaller
than a domain, but larger than a phylum (animals)
or division (plants).
Microbes are amazing little organisms, they are everywhere and we
couldn't eat or breath without them. Microbes are living organisms
like humans are, but they are obviously different. For example
microbes are made of one single cell while humans are made of over
10 trillion. Another difference is their size; microbes are so small
that billions can fit into the head of a needle. The most interesting
fact about microbes is that they are the oldest form of life on
earth. Microbes are incredible survivors because of the different
kinds of conditions they can live in and the different things they
can eat. For example, microbes can live in very hot places (up to
An order is a group of one or more families that share common
characteristics. For instance, dogs, cats, and bears are all in different
families, but all are included in the order Carnivora. The order
is thus a level of classification
smaller than a class, but larger than a family. The scientific names of animal orders do not
have a standardized form, but the names of plant orders end in -ales.
Carbon-containing molecules coming from living or once-living organisms.
- Oxygenated Zone
An area with oxygen in the water or atmosphere.
Uneven distribution of resources or organisms, as opposed to uniform
An interval of geological time. Two or more periods make up an era.
A phylum is a group of one or more classes
of animals that share a number of common characteristics.
The plural of phylum is phyla. Some phyla found in New Mexico
are the Chordata (which include mammals, birds, reptiles,
amphibians, and fishes), the Arthropoda (insects, crayfish,
spiders, etc.), and the Mollusca (snails and clams). The phylum
is thus a level of classification
smaller than a kingdom, but larger
than a class. The equivalent level of classification among plants is called a division.
An epoch in the Quaternary of geological time that
began roughly 1.64 million years ago and lasted until 10,000 years ago.
Several glaciations occurred during this time.
When one animal kills another, this is termed predation. The killer
is the predator and the animal killed is the prey. Plants may prey on insects;
viruses may prey on bacteria, etc.
A predator is an animal that hunts other animals for food.
- (n.) An animal that is hunted or caught for food.
- (v.) To hunt for or eat another animal.
- Primary Producers
In ecosystems the primary producers form the base of the trophic
structure by using energy to convert inorganic molecules to organic
molecules. Commonly, these are green plants or cyanobacteria that
use energy from the sun to fix in organic carbon (usually carbon
dioxide) to organic carbon. In caves, which lack such primary
producers, sulfur or other bacteria are the primary producers.
These bacteria are chemolithoautotrophs.
- Selective Pressure
A feature in the environment of an organisms that leads to natural
selection. In caves, the scarcity of food in certain regions of the cave
is a selective pressure. Individuals that are better at finding food
generally leave more offspring, that in turn are better at finding food,
thus being better adapted to their environment and
the selective pressure of low food availability.
A bowl or funnel-shaped depression in the countryside
that is an entry point for streams or rivers into the subsurface. Some have openings to caves at the
bottom, while others are closed to human entry or choked by boulders.
A species is a "kind" of living organism, different from other
species of organisms. There is no single definition of species
that applies to or works for all types of organisms. The
definition of a species in plants is different from the
definition of a species in animals, and both are different from
the definition of species in microorganisms. In animals, one
definition of species works well for some organisms, while the
same definition may not work as well for other groups of
organisms. Some species are easy to tell apart, like Mourning
Doves and White-winged Doves, while others, like many insects,
are more difficult.
- Species Richness
Count 'em! How many species of organisms are
present in a given community or physical area.
cave formations: secondary mineral deposits formed in caves, caused
by the dissolution of minerals (such as calcite) and their subsequent
deposition in crystalline form in growing layers in a variety of
Below the surface of the Earth.
- Sulfuric Acid
Sulfuric acid is a strong acid in caves, sulfuric acid has created
many of the large caverns in the Guadalupe Mountains in New Mexico
and other caves around the world. Caves formed in this way are
called hypogenic caves . Chemically:
- Trophic Level
Energy is transferred from one level to another in an ecosystem,
often by the consumption of one organism by another. The position
that an organism occupies in this transfer is referred to as its
trophic level. For example, plants are primary producers; deer are
primary consumers; and wolves are secondary
- Twilight zone
The area just beyond the entrance or skylight of a cave, in which
light decreases from the full intensity of the surface. Some organisms
are adapted to the very low-light regions where
the twilight zone meets the deep or dark zone
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