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Photos: The Creatures That Call Lava-Tube Caves Home

Lava-tube cave

lava-tube cave

(Image credit: Kyle Voyles/ Bureau of Land Management)

Lava-tube caves are hollowed-out tributaries of lava flows that can extend many miles underground. Western New Mexico's El Malpais National Monument, where these photos were taken, contains more than 200 lava-tube caves.

Lava-tube cave, inside

cave

(Image credit: Kyle Voyles/ Bureau of Land Management)

Lava-tube caves differ in shape from more commonly known limestone caves, and thus develop different air current patterns that support distinct flora and fauna. Researchers based at Northern Arizona University surveyed 11 caves in El Malpais National Monument to better understand this unique habitat.

Lava-tube cave, scientist collecting specimens

cave

(Image credit: Kyle Voyles/ Bureau of Land Management)

New cave-adapted bristletail

cave

(Image credit: Jut Wynne/Northern Arizona University)

This newly discovered bristletail is cave-adapted, meaning that it lives its entire life in complete cave darkness. Its light coloration is typical of cave-adapted species, since these animals do not generally see one another and would therefore not benefit from distinct markings.

New cave cricket

cricket

(Image credit: Jut Wynne/Northern Arizona University)

This newly discovered cave cricket is trogloxenic, meaning it spends its life both inside and outside of caves.

New cave beetle

new cave beetle

(Image credit: Kyle Voyles/Bureau of Land Management)

This newly discovered cave beetle is also trogloxenic, spending its life inside and outside caves.

New cave planthopper, nymph stage

planthopper

(Image credit: Jut Wynne/Northern Arizona University)

This newly discovered planthopper is thought to be cave-adapted, spending its entire life in cave darkness.

Hibernating Townsend's big-eared bat

cave bats

(Image credit: Jut Wynne/Northern Arizona University)

A hibernating colony of roughly 100 Townsend's big-eared bats was discovered in one. As a result, the park's resources management team decided to close that cave to the public during the winter, to allow the bats to hibernate undisturbed.