A cave is "a natural opening in the ground extending beyond the zone of light and large enough to permit the entry of man," according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Caves can range in size from single rooms to large formations with winding passageways that extend for miles. Caves typically form in types of rock, such as limestone, that dissolve in water. It can take tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years for caves to form. The study of caves is called speleology, and the exploration of caves is called spelunking. Caves are famous of their dripstone features called speleothems, the most well-known of which are stalactites and stalagmites. Many of the strange creatures found in caves have adapted to live in near or total darkness — some are blind to visible light. See cave pictures and read about the latest cave discoveries and speleological research below.
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How Cave Slime Helps Create Dripstones
Tjuv-Ante’s Cave
September 7th, 2014
Bacteria aren't just tenants inside Sweden's Tjuv-Ante's Cave. The microbes are building calcite dripstones on the ceiling.
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Icicles Galore: Visitors Flock to Apostle Islands' Frozen Ice Caves (Photo)
Apostle Islands Ice Cave
February 4th, 2014
For the first time in five years, intrepid visitors to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore can make the icy trek along the frozen waters of Lake Superior to glimpse the millions of icicles that embellish the region's incredible ice caves.
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'Neanderthal' Remains Actually Medieval Human
Medieval human tooth
December 30th, 2013
Bones found in the 1980s in an Italian cave and identified as Neanderthal actually belonged to a human, or humans, from the Middle Ages, new research finds. The study highlights the need to reassess old anthropological discoveries.
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Kansas Salt Safari Unveils Glittering Underground World
salt safari
December 5th, 2013
A new attraction in central Kansas allows tourists to travel 650 feet (198 meters) underground and explore an active salt mine, and revel in the shimmering crystals.
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Stalagmites & Hieroglyphs: Investigating the Maya Demise
Maya region map
June 25th, 2013
Tackling this 2,000-year-old mystery takes a large and diverse set of experts.
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Underwater Cave Full of Ancient Bones to Be Mapped in 3D
Diver Susan Bird working at the bottom of Hoyo Negro, a large dome-shaped underwater cave on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.
June 20th, 2014
A 3D modeling technique allows researchers to stay dry while studying skeletons found in a deep underwater cave on the Yucatan Peninsula.
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Lemurs Snooze in Caves Like Early Humans
A ring-tailed lemur in a tree
December 6th, 2013
A group of ring-tailed lemurs in Madagascar have made caves their nightly sleeping spot and are the first wild primates ever observed to return to the same caves night after night to rest.
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New See-Through Snail Discovered Deep Underground
September 13th, 2013
More than 3,000 feet below ground, a new snail species has been discovered with a delicate, translucent shell.
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