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Academic & Professional Books  Habitats & Ecosystems  Caves & Karst

Cave Biodiversity Speciation and Diversity of Subterranean Fauna

By: J Judson Wynne(Editor), Stuart L Pimm(Foreword By)
327 pages, 16 plates with colour photos and colour illustrations; 18 b/w photos, 29 b/w illustrations
Cave Biodiversity is a scholarly yet readable overview of the biology of several notable groups of subterranean organisms.
Cave Biodiversity
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Average customer review
  • Cave Biodiversity ISBN: 9781421444574 Hardback Feb 2023 In stock
Price: £78.99
About this book Contents Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

A deep dive into the evolutionary biology, biogeography, and conservation of the most elusive subterranean creatures in the world.

Far from the austere, sparsely populated ecosystems often conjured in the imagination, caves actually host some of the most mysterious and biodiverse natural systems in the world. Subterranean environments, however, are the least explored terrestrial habitats, contributing to misconceptions about their environment and inhabitants. Edited by cave scientist and conservation ecologist Dr J. Judson Wynne, Cave Biodiversity explores both the evolution and the conservation of subterrestrial-dwelling fauna.

Covering both vertebrates and invertebrates, including molluscs, fishes, amphibians, arthropods, and other troglobionts, this volume brings together ichthyologists, entomologists, ecologists, herpetologists, and conservationists to provide a nuanced picture of life beneath the earth's surface. Broad chapters covering biotic and abiotic factors that influence evolution and support biodiversity precede chapters dedicated to specific taxa, highlighting phylogenetics and morphology, and delving into zoogeography, habitat, ecology, and dispersal mechanisms for each. Considerations for the conservation of these fascinating, often bizarre, and often highly sensitive subterranean creatures are emphasized throughout.

Cave Biodiversity aims to synthesize the principles of subterranean evolutionary biology and diversity through in-depth case studies of some of the most captivating and imperiled subterranean-adapted taxonomic groups in the world. Employing a multidisciplinary approach involving systematics, genetics, ecology, biogeography, evolutionary biology, and conservation science, Cave Biodiversity will be of keen interest to evolutionary biologists, ecologists, conservation biologists, and cave scientists, as well as advanced undergraduate and graduate students.


List of Contributors

1. Influence of the Physical Environment on Terrestrial Cave Diversity, by J. Judson Wynne and Francis G. Howarth
2. Evolutionary Models Influencing Subterranean Speciation, by J. Judson Wynne, Matthew L. Niemiller, and Kenneth James Chapin
3. Biology and Ecology of Subterranean Mollusca, by Jozef Grego
4. The Subterranean Cholevinae of Italy, by Leonardo Latella
5. Cave Trechine (Coleoptera: Carabidae) Radiation and Biogeography in Eastern North America, by Karen A. Ober, Matthew L. Niemiller, and T. Keith Philips
6. Subterranean Colonization and Diversification of Cave-dwelling Salamanders, by Dante Fenolio, Matthew L. Niemiller, Evin T. Carter, Andrew G. Gluesenkamp, and John G. Phillips
7. Diversity, Distribution, and Conservation of Cavefishes in China, by J. Judson Wynne, Yahui Zhao, Andrew G. Gluesenkamp, Dante Fenolio, Daphne Soares, Matthew L. Niemiller, Maria E. Bichuette, and Prosanta Chakrabarty

Customer Reviews (1)

  • A scholarly yet readable overview
    By Leon (NHBS Catalogue Editor) 7 Jun 2023 Written for Hardback

    The deep sea is often mentioned as one of the last remaining unexplored areas on the planet, but there is another, closely related world: the subterranean realm of caves. Edited by cave ecologist J. Judson Wynne, Cave Biodiversity brings together fifteen experts in biospeleology to discuss several notable invertebrate and vertebrate groups. A scholarly yet readable overview, this is a welcome addition to the small number of books on this topic.

    Cave Biodiversity is divided into two parts. The core of the book is the five chapters that discuss subterranean molluscs, two groups of cave beetles, cave salamanders, and cavefishes. It seems two factors played into this selection: Do we know enough about these groups to write a substantial chapter? And has knowledge of these groups so far been scattered in numerous journal papers?

    This core is preceded by two chapters providing a general introduction. If, like me, you have not textbooks on this topic, the first chapter is particularly welcome. It familiarises you with the basic principles of how cave environments shape life underground and explains principles and terminology used throughout the rest of the book. It explains the basic mechanisms of cave formation, the different cave environments and size classes (many of which are simply too small for human access), and discusses a long list of biotic and abiotic factors that influence caves both positively and negatively. The second chapter offers a very interesting overview of different models of speciation. How does cave life become established? A popular model is that caves host ice-age relics that evolved from surface organisms that took shelter in caves during interglacial periods. However, many other scenarios are possible. There is, perhaps not surprisingly, convergent evolution aplenty, which complicates our attempts at finding answers. Note, also, how caves resemble islands, meaning principles of island biogeography apply. Given my background in evolutionary biology, I gobbled this chapter up.

    Now here is the thing about edited collections: depending on the nature of the contributions they can either end up as a dumping ground for unrelated technical articles, or they can offer valuable summaries. I am happy to report that Cave Biodiversity firmly falls into the latter camp and Wynne undoubtedly played an important role behind the scenes as editor. You cannot tell that three chapters have non-native English speakers as the first or only author, and the overall readability and flow are excellent. Despite this being an academic book, none of these chapters loses themselves in obscure technical detail, and all make liberal use of headings and subheadings to organise their thoughts. I particularly appreciated Grego's chapter on molluscs and Niemiller et al.'s chapter on salamanders for providing complete coverage of a large taxon. The chapter on cavefishes is restricted to China, though this fauna is particularly rich and most books on this topic are in Chinese (except for one translated work), so this is a welcome overview. In comparison, the two chapters on beetles seem rather specialist, covering the subfamily Cholevinae of Italy and the subfamily Trechinae of Eastern North America. The latter has a particularly interesting discussion on competing hypotheses to explain their evolutionary history and current species distribution.

    For each group, these five chapters discuss what we know about their taxonomy, morphological adaptations, habitats and ecology, diversity and distribution, and colonization and adaptation. Two overarching themes emerge. First is just how hard it is to study these organisms, and how little we know about the biology of many species. Many invertebrates largely live in so-called mesocaverns: the network of fissures and voids that are too small for us to access. Several authors caution that observed distribution patterns and presumed endemicity likely reflect sampling bias and research effort. Much of this field is still in the descriptive stage of simply cataloguing what is out there. Second are conservation concerns, something each chapter concludes with. With nutrients being limited, life underground happens in the slow lane, making these ecosystems particularly vulnerable to human disturbances. The threats are many and diverse, few environments have been assessed, many species are found to be data deficient, and few countries have conservation legislation in place. Species are winking out of existence before we even had a chance to describe them, meaning that caves are at the forefront of unknown biodiversity loss.

    In light of these conservation concerns, I have two minor points of critique. First, I am surprised the book does not make more out of environmental DNA (eDNA). Organisms leave behind a trail of DNA in their environment through e.g. skin cells, hairs, urine, faeces, and whatever else they shed and excrete. In recent years, scientists have explored this as an alternative to direct sighting or trapping in biodiversity surveys. This topic only comes up in the chapters on salamanders (for whom it has been successfully used) and cavefishes (where it still needs to be developed in the Chinese context). Niemiller, who co-authored these chapters, has published elsewhere on the use of eDNA for sampling crayfish and cavefish, cautioning it can complement, but not replace, traditional surveys. But what of invertebrates? A cursory search turned up a recent paper by a group of Italian scientists that explored the use of eDNA from insects and springtails. A more in-depth discussion of this subject would have been an additional cherry on this cake.

    A second minor critique I have is that two notable groups are absent, though both omissions are understandable. There is no discussion of Mexican cavefishes; then again, there has been a dedicated book on this topic in 2015. And what of bats? Obviously, bats are a huge topic, and there are no troglobionts in this group; they merely roost in caves and are mentioned here for the nutritious guano they leave behind. I wonder if, much like charismatic mammals elsewhere, bats could act as flagship species in cave protection.

    Finally, who is this book for beyond the small community of biospeleologists? The focus on speciation and biodiversity makes this of interest to both evolutionary and conservation biologists. But what about recreational cavers? That depends on your background and interests. Cave Biodiversity is a pricey and academic book, though, as mentioned, accessibly written. It certainly should be in the reference libraries of caving clubs. Overall, I consider this to be a very welcome addition to the existing literature, especially in providing several global overviews.
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J. Judson Wynne (Flagstaff, Arizona) is an assistant research professor of cave ecology at Northern Arizona University.

- Maria E. Bichuette
- Evin T. Carter
- Prosanta Chakrabarty
- Kenneth James Chapin
- Danté B. Fenolio
- Andrew G. Gluesenkamp
- Jozef Grego
- Francis G. Howarth
- Leonardo Latella
- Matthew L. Niemiller
- Karen A. Ober
- T. Keith Philips
- John G. Phillips
- Stuart Pimm
- Daphne Soares
- J. Judson Wynne
- Yahui Zhao

By: J Judson Wynne(Editor), Stuart L Pimm(Foreword By)
327 pages, 16 plates with colour photos and colour illustrations; 18 b/w photos, 29 b/w illustrations
Cave Biodiversity is a scholarly yet readable overview of the biology of several notable groups of subterranean organisms.
Media reviews

"The authors review the origins and status of subterranean biodiversity through a combination of overview chapters and chapters focused on specific groups of cave animals. This is a strong and well-organized contribution that advances the field. Cave biologists would be interested in this book as an academic reference about the origins of subterranean diversity and about specific subterranean groups from around the world."
– Kirk S. Zigler, Sewanee: The University of the South

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