Cave Ecology pp 383-397 | Cite as

Research in Anchialine Caves

  • Thomas M. IliffeEmail author
  • Fernando Alvarez
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 235)


Anchialine caves are tidal, subterranean, inland habitats with a salinity-stratified water column and exchange of saltwater with the sea. They primarily occur on oceanic islands and some peninsulas with karstic limestone or volcanic terrain and include some of the longest explored caves on Earth. Use of specialized scientific cave-diving technology is essential to access this environment. A diverse, specially adapted fauna, dominated by crustaceans and other invertebrates, inhabit deeper, euhaline waters in anchialine caves. A number of new higher taxa, e.g., class Remipedia and order Mictacea, exclusively occur in this habitat. Some groups of anchialine fauna are found on opposite sides of oceans or even opposite sides of the Earth, and others have close relatives in the deep sea. Chemoautotrophically based food webs have been identified providing food in the otherwise lightless and nutrient-limited cave environment. Investigations of anchialine caves and their fauna by diving are a recent development so that much work remains. Only a small percentage of anchialine caves have been explored, much less scientifically studied, suggesting many new discoveries still wait.



We extend our sincere appreciation to numerous taxonomists, ecologists, and other biologists from around the world who over the years have generously contributed their time and effort to these studies. Since exploration of deep, extensive, and potentially dangerous underwater caves is an essential component to these studies, we gratefully recognize the many cave divers who have supported our research endeavors, especially cave divers and close friends Sheck Exley (1949–1994), Rob Palmer (1952–1997), Rob Parker (1962–1997), Wes Skiles (1958–2010), and Agnes Milowka (1981–2011), all of whom tragically perished in diving accidents. This research has been supported by grants from the US National Science Foundation (#03-15903, 87-00079, 84-17494), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (U.S. Department of Commerce), National Geographic Society (4725-92, 3412-86), and others to TMI and awards from CONACYT [#155644(546)] to FA as well as Texas A&M University—CONACYT collaborative science grants (#10655) to both authors.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Marine BiologyTexas A&M University at GalvestonGalvestonUSA
  2. 2.Colección Nacional de CrustáceosInstituto de Biología, UNAMMéxicoMéxico

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