New Species Sequoia National Park Caves

Nestled in west central California, west of Death Valley National Park and east of Fresno, is found the Sequoia National Park. Recent discoveries in the caves found within this national park, have revealed up to 30 new species of animals, covering such families as scorpion like insects, spiders, as well as varieties of never before seen centipede. The caves that these new animals were discovered in are dark and very damp caves found beneath the national park and its neighbour known as Canyon National Park, in the Sierra Nevada region.

Cave specialist, Joel Despain, who has explored and worked in at least 30 of the known 238 caves below the national parks, noted that not only are these new and undocumented species to science, but that they displayed attributes, so far not noted in other animals. An example of this is that some of these new animals had adapted and evolved specific to their immediate surrounds, and that those immediate surrounds were often as small as a single room in a cave. So a spider in one room of the cave being explored could be completely different to a spider found in the very next room, as determined by the environments found in each room, even though they exist as it is side by side.

Some examples of this strange new life are the discovery of a species very similar to the Pill Bug, however, having a translucent skin that allows its insides to be seen. In this particular specimen, the liver is found to be a lengthy bright yellow line. As well as that of a spider, very similar to our known Daddy Long Legs spider, that had an oversized jaw, much larger than the size of its own body. Also found nearby was a brightly glowing orange spider.

Darrell Ubick, a cave specialist from San Fransisco, states “Many people will be looking at these trying to find where they fit in the tree of life. While it is extremely rare to find new mammal or bird species on the surface, caves still hold an abundance of secrets. Like the deep sea, they are often difficult to reach and seldom explored.”

Jean Krejca, a consulting biologist with Zara Environmental based out of Austin, Texas, who helped lead the three-year exploration, said “You get the feeling you’re Lewis and Clark, charting undiscovered territory,” she said. “Caves are one of the last frontiers.”

Joel Despain goes on to explain that park officials plan to adopt measures to protect the caves. Joel then explains that most of them are not accessible to the public, and can be visited only by researchers or experienced explorers with permits.

As yet the species have not been either described scientifically, given names, or given a place among the current tree of living species. The reasons for this, said Jean Krejca are many, such as “The fact that we don’t know how long they live, what kind of habitat they prefer, how many offspring they have, or how sensitive they are to human disturbance, are just a few. There’s still so much to learn.”