Cave Ecology pp 399-414 | Cite as

Volcanic Anchialine Habitats of Lanzarote

Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 235)


The island of Lanzarote is situated in the northern end of the Canary Islands and hosts one of the most diverse volcanic anchialine ecosystems in the world. Best known for Túnel de la Atlántida, Lanzarote has a diverse set of anchialine habitats, including lakes, pools, and even wells that penetrate into the subterranean aquifer. The porous nature of this volcanic terrain interconnects the different anchialine water bodies, providing suitable habitat for over 40 stygobitic species. Amazingly, this geologically young island is home to many characteristic anchialine fauna, including remipedes, thermosbaenaceans, and thaumatocyprid ostracods that have puzzled zoologists and biogeographers throughout the twentieth century. Several stygobites with clear deep-sea affinities are also present, including the polynoid scale worm Gesiella jameensis and the galatheid squat lobster Munidopsis polymorpha, an iconic symbol to Lanzarote. While the known anchialine habitats of Lanzarote are relatively small in comparison to other regions, the unique combination of geology and faunal composition is providing exciting new insights into pathways of dispersal and colonization among anchialine environments. Ultimately, these discoveries will continue to push anchialine research forward, stimulating new ideas and testable hypothesis in order to better understand these remarkable environments.



This chapter is dedicated to the pioneering works of Thomas M. Iliffe, Pedro Oromí, Jorge Núñez, and Horst Wilkens for their support and friendship throughout our careers. Their countless discoveries and contributions continue to drive young scientists underground, pushing the boundaries of science and “evolution in the dark” as we know it. We are forever grateful to Katrine Worsaae for her willingness to open up her lab in order to make this research and numerous others a reality. Exploration and discovery is not without risks, and for this we are indebted to all the cave divers and support teams, for without their support, these investigations would never have been possible. Several scientific grants, including those from Denmark, Germany, Spain, and the USA, have supported our exploration and research over the years. We would also like to personally thank Elena Mateo, UNESCO Geopark of Lanzarote, and the Chinijo Archipelago, for their continued support in providing scientific access to these remarkable sites.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Ecosystems Studies, National Research Council of ItalyVerbaniaItaly
  2. 2.Marine Biological Section, Department of BiologyUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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