An alteration or adjustment in structure or habits that an organism makes (it is often hereditary) which improves its relationship to its surrounding environment.
A biologist who specializes in the study of cave animal life, or the biology of caves, karst and groundwater.
A common crystal form of natural calcium carbonate, CaCO3 (limestone, marble, and chalk).
Organisms that lives all or part of their lives in caves.
Organisms, particularly certain Bacteria and Archaea, that fix in organic carbon (usually carbon dioxide) and use in organic compounds or elements (e.g. hydrogen sulfide) for energy. They are informally called "rock-eaters".
A class is a group of one or more orders that share common characteristics. For instance, carnivores, rodents, and whales are in different genera, but all are included in the mammals, class Mammalia. The class is thus a level of classification smaller than a phylum, but larger than an order. The scientific names of classes do not have standardized endings.
The grouping and organizing of organisms into categories based on the relationships between them.
The struggle between individuals of a given species or populations of different species for the same resource. The implication is that one individual or population loses because of the success of another in obtaining the resource.
Organisms that feed on dead or living organic material. For example, in caves, isopods that feed on wood or guano are consumers.
Disintegrated or eroded matter.
A division is a group of one or more classes of plants that share a number of common characteristics. Some divisions found in New Mexico are the [help me out here, Tim or Chris]. The division is thus a level of classification smaller than a kingdom, but larger than a class. The equivalent level of classification among animals is called a phylum.
The domain is the largest grouping of living organisms. There are three domains: Archaea, Bacteria (prokaryotes, i.e. organisms whose cells do not have nuclei), and Eukarya (organisms whose cells have nuclei, such as animals, plants, and fungi).
Organisms that are found only in one region or part of the region. In cave organisms, some animals are restricted to a single cave.
A unit of geological time. Epochs are a subdivision of periods, another geological unit of time.
An era is the main division of geological time. Examples of eras are Mesozoic and Paleozoic. Eras are divided into periods.
Exploitation Competition
Organisms utilizing a particular prey item may reduce the availability of that prey item, making it less available to other organisms in what is known as exploitative competition. An example is the eating of cricket eggs by carabid beetles in caves. If some beetles are very successful in finding eggs, they reduce the number of eggs available to other beetles.
A family is a group of one or more genera that share common characteristics. For instance, domestic cats, lions, and cheetahs are in different genera, but all are included in the cat family, Felidae. The family is thus a level of classification smaller than an order, but larger than a genus. The scientific names of animal families end in -idae, and the names of plant families end in -aceae.
Food Chain
When a coyote eats a mouse that has eaten seeds, this is an example of a food chain. It is also an example of predator-prey relationships and details who eats whom! Eating just mice would be a bad idea for coyotes, especially if the mice suffered a plague and mostly died off. All of the different food chains and their inter-relationships together form a food web.
Food Web
The food chains and their interrelationships make up a food web. Food webs visually display the trophic levels within an ecosystem: Decomposers such as bacteria and fungi are the bottom trophic level; plants or microbial primary producers represent the bottom trophic level, followed by the consumers. Primary consumers are herbivores, or animals that eat the plants. The secondary and tertiary consumers (carnivores) make up the next two trophic levels.
A genus is a group of one or more species that share common characteristics. For instance, domestic dogs, wolves, and coyotes are different species within the same genus, Canis, but foxes have enough differences that they are placed in a different genus. The genus is thus a level of classification smaller than a family, but larger than a species. No two groups of animals or two groups of plants can have the same genus name (only dogs and not fishes or beetles can be Canis), but the rules do not prevent a plant and an animal from having the same genus name. The plural of genus is genera.
The formation and movement of glaciers that cover portions of the surface of the Earth.
A substance made mainly of the dung of sea birds or bats, which is found in coastal areas or in caves. Guano can be used as fertilizer.
Hypogenic Caves
Caves formed by rising fluids from within the Earth. Hypogenic caves are created by sulfuric acid formed at the boundary where rising waters rich in hydrogen sulfide meet waters with oxygen.
Hydrogen Sulfide Gas
Hydrogen sulfide rising along fissures inside the surface of the Earth is converted by chemistry or microorganisms to sulfuric acid when it reaches an area with oxygen. The sulfuric acid then carves out caves such as the caves of the Guadalupe Mountains and other caves around the world. Chemically: H2S.
Interference Competition
The interactions between organisms trying to gain the same resource, in which one organism's actions harm another organism's success in obtaining that resource. In caves, carabid beetles compete for cricket eggs and the actions of one beetle may decrease others' ability to obtain cricket eggs. Fighting while digging for cricket eggs or chasing a beetle that has obtained an egg are examples of interference competition.
A kingdom is a group of one or more phyla or divisions that share a number of common characteristics. The generally recognized kingdoms of eukaryotes (organisms whose cells have nuclei) are the Animalia, Plantae, Fungi, and Protista (single-celled organisms with a cell nucleus) The kingdom is thus a level of classification smaller than a domain, but larger than a phylum (animals) or division (plants).
Microbes are amazing little organisms, they are everywhere and we couldn't eat or breath without them. Microbes are living organisms like humans are, but they are obviously different. For example microbes are made of one single cell while humans are made of over 10 trillion. Another difference is their size; microbes are so small that billions can fit into the head of a needle. The most interesting fact about microbes is that they are the oldest form of life on earth. Microbes are incredible survivors because of the different kinds of conditions they can live in and the different things they can eat. For example, microbes can live in very hot places (up to 113°C).
An order is a group of one or more families that share common characteristics. For instance, dogs, cats, and bears are all in different families, but all are included in the order Carnivora. The order is thus a level of classification smaller than a class, but larger than a family. The scientific names of animal orders do not have a standardized form, but the names of plant orders end in -ales.
Carbon-containing molecules coming from living or once-living organisms.
Oxygenated Zone
An area with oxygen in the water or atmosphere.
Uneven distribution of resources or organisms, as opposed to uniform distribution.
An interval of geological time. Two or more periods make up an era.
A phylum is a group of one or more classes of animals that share a number of common characteristics. The plural of phylum is phyla. Some phyla found in New Mexico are the Chordata (which include mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes), the Arthropoda (insects, crayfish, spiders, etc.), and the Mollusca (snails and clams). The phylum is thus a level of classification smaller than a kingdom, but larger than a class. The equivalent level of classification among plants is called a division.
An epoch in the Quaternary of geological time that began roughly 1.64 million years ago and lasted until 10,000 years ago. Several glaciations occurred during this time.
When one animal kills another, this is termed predation. The killer is the predator and the animal killed is the prey. Plants may prey on insects; viruses may prey on bacteria, etc.
A predator is an animal that hunts other animals for food.
  1. (n.) An animal that is hunted or caught for food.
  2. (v.) To hunt for or eat another animal.
Primary Producers
In ecosystems the primary producers form the base of the trophic structure by using energy to convert inorganic molecules to organic molecules. Commonly, these are green plants or cyanobacteria that use energy from the sun to fix in organic carbon (usually carbon dioxide) to organic carbon. In caves, which lack such primary producers, sulfur or other bacteria are the primary producers. These bacteria are chemolithoautotrophs.
Selective Pressure
A feature in the environment of an organisms that leads to natural selection. In caves, the scarcity of food in certain regions of the cave is a selective pressure. Individuals that are better at finding food generally leave more offspring, that in turn are better at finding food, thus being better adapted to their environment and the selective pressure of low food availability.
A bowl or funnel-shaped depression in the countryside that is an entry point for streams or rivers into the subsurface. Some have openings to caves at the bottom, while others are closed to human entry or choked by boulders.
A species is a "kind" of living organism, different from other species of organisms. There is no single definition of species that applies to or works for all types of organisms. The definition of a species in plants is different from the definition of a species in animals, and both are different from the definition of species in microorganisms. In animals, one definition of species works well for some organisms, while the same definition may not work as well for other groups of organisms. Some species are easy to tell apart, like Mourning Doves and White-winged Doves, while others, like many insects, are more difficult.
Species Richness
Count 'em! How many species of organisms are present in a given community or physical area.
cave formations: secondary mineral deposits formed in caves, caused by the dissolution of minerals (such as calcite) and their subsequent deposition in crystalline form in growing layers in a variety of shapes.
Below the surface of the Earth.
Sulfuric Acid
Sulfuric acid is a strong acid in caves, sulfuric acid has created many of the large caverns in the Guadalupe Mountains in New Mexico and other caves around the world. Caves formed in this way are called hypogenic caves . Chemically: H2SO4.
Trophic Level
Energy is transferred from one level to another in an ecosystem, often by the consumption of one organism by another. The position that an organism occupies in this transfer is referred to as its trophic level. For example, plants are primary producers; deer are primary consumers; and wolves are secondary consumers.
Twilight zone
The area just beyond the entrance or skylight of a cave, in which light decreases from the full intensity of the surface. Some organisms are adapted to the very low-light regions where the twilight zone meets the deep or dark zone

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