Monday, April 02, 2007

Animal of the Week April 2, 2007 -- Troglobites

For a change, this week's animals are unnamed. Not because I am being lazy, I am not in charge of that sort of thing, rather because I can't find the names of any of them, and they are five species! They are the five species of troglobite that have caused the Western Australia Environmental Protection Agency to halt the construction of a multibillion dollar mine at Pannawonica, in the north-western region of Pilbara.

You would be forgiven for thinking that troglobite is just another of my gross spelling errors that litter these mailouts like rare insect species over a planned development site, but no, I mean neither troglodyte nor trilobite, but troglobite: any animal adapted to live solely and exclusively within caves that can never leave. Troglobites typically have advanced senses of touch and smell but a massively reduced sense of sight, with most being totally blind. A common adaptation among troglobite spiders, such as those in those in question here, is the loss of eyes and the adaptation of the front pair of legs to become long feelers (as seen in the picture).

The troglobites halting the Robe River, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, planned mine are spider like creatures, none bigger than half a centimetre in length, but unique to the site and not found in a neighbouring reserve protected from mine exploration. Troglobites feast on traces of organic material that drift into cave systems from the world above or algae and other microorganisms that survive within their cave systems, or in the case of spiders, other troglobites. Unable to survive exposure to direct light as they have no protection against UV rays, these troglobites would have no hope of colonising a new cave system. Every time a cave tropical system is investigated, a new set of these creatures is discovered, fish, salamanders, crickets, centipedes, insects, and shrimps have all several times moved into subterranean homes.

With iron ore set to run out in their existing mines in Australia in the next five years, Robe River will appeal hard for the mines to be built. So these spiders may not be long for this world, so I salute you little nameless, eyeless buddies. Enjoy what time you have left licking algae from the rocks and eating blind beetles in your tiny sunless world.

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At 2:54 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

If they have no name, can we call them all Kevin?


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