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10 Strange and Fascinating Animals That Live in Caves

Animals that live in caves always look a little bit alien, but these are definitely stranger than most.

Evolution has taught us that different environments will make creatures adopt different traits. The more similar two environments are, the more likely it is that the animals that live there will have similar traits.

That's exactly what makes studying animals that live in caves so fascinating. Caves are, in many ways, the antithesis to the environment people thrive in—and as a result, the animals that live in these places are very unlike anything you'd see above ground.

There's no sunlight in a cave, so sight tends to be unreliable. With no light, few plants are able to grow, so being able to find food becomes a chore. Temperatures can be extremely cold or extremely hot, depending on the cave.

Scientists are so amazed by the way that animals adapted to living in caves, they even came up with a term that describes them as a category. The scientific term for cave-dwelling animals is troglobite.

As you can imagine, evolution got very weird with some cave dwellers. Here are some fascinating cave-loving animals you might not know about quite yet.

Water Scorpions

Water scorpions are really creepy, little crawlies that rank highly among successful cave dwellers. These praying mantis-like creatures typically eat small lice, beetles, and flies that somehow find themselves at home underground.

These insects are really amazing from a survival standpoint. One of the most poisonous caves in the world, complete with high levels of sulfur in its air, is currently home to several species of water scorpion.

These long-legged insects are one of only 40-ish species that are capable of living in Movile Cave. Most others would die due to the lack of oxygen or because of food scarcity.

Alabama Cavefish

Currently, the Alabama cavefish holds the dubious bragging right of being one of the rarest fish in the world. The entire species is only found in a handful of locations, and like most other cavefish, it's totally blind.

This fish has no eyes to speak of, and no pigment at all, either. To navigate its area, the fish evolved to have an extremely sensitive network of nerves that can tell everything from water temperature to the distance of nearby objects.

They're also very pretty, in an unearthly way. Don't they look like floating ribbons?

Olms

The olm is a very unusual animal, indeed. It's a salamander that spends its entire life in water, and not only does it stay underwater, it stays underground.

These salamanders also have their own cave-induced super powers. Olms are capable of noticing low levels of toxic chemicals in their environment, feeling warmth from a light source, and also feeling magnetic pulses.

As far as animals that live in caves go, these pretty little things are as close to a real-life Daredevil as you can get. Their senses, minus sight, top anything we, as humans, could imagine.

Kaua'i Cave Amphipods and Kaua'i Cave Wolf Spiders

These two creepy crawlies are some of the most unusual cave creatures on this list—but not just because they have no eyes. Both the wolf spider and amphipod live their entire lives underground, almost having a symbiotic relationship with one another.

Kaua'i Cave amphipods are the main food source of wolf spiders. Wolf spiders are one of the biggest creatures in Hawaii's rich cave system, and offer scientists amazing insight into the evolutionary path of the island.

Both creatures are critically endangered, but have been around the island for over five million years.

Cave Bats

Technically, bats aren't true cave dwellers. Bats are trogloxenes, which means they roost in caves, but will occasionally go above ground to search for food. In some cases, they don't ever really live in a cave at all.

This is actually why you don't see the same pigment loss in bats that you do with cave fish or other true troglobites. Even so, you will often see bats chilling out near the entrances of caves.

There are, of course, multiple species of bats that currently call caves their nesting place. They're generally just cool to learn about, and can definitely make good pets for the right person.

Southern Cave Crayfish

Cave crayfish are actually fairly common. Dozens of different species of crayfish can be found in caves around the world, so you might be wondering what makes the Southern Cave Crayfish so interesting. Right?

Well, it's because of its lifespan. Most insects, arthropods, arachnids, and crustaceans don't really live that long. The Southern Cave Crayfish, though, does. These small "mini lobsters" can live up to 50 years. This is insanely long for a crayfish!

Brazilian Blind Characid

Admittedly, a lot of the animals that live in caves are kind of creepy and spooky. Few, though, are as terrifying as the Brazilian Blind Characid.  Look at it. It's a very unsettling looking fish. This eerily pale fish is a relative to the piranha, which somehow just makes it insanely creepier. 

Though we know of its existence, we don't really know much else about it. All we really know is that it's about as scary looking as the deep sea creatures from hell. It's so rare, it was thought to be extinct! Fortunately though, it turned out to be one of the extinct animals that wasn't really extinct.

Madagascar Blind Snake

Cave snakes are some of the largest animals you'll see that somehow manage to spend their entire lives underground. Over a dozen different species exist, and one of the most endangered species of cave snake currently hails from Madagascar.

This snake, like many other animals that live underground, doesn't have eyes. It also has a loss of pigment because of its living situation. So, it actually looks like a long pink worm. But, no, it's a snake.

Balearic Islands Cave Goat

Admittedly, this animal is no longer found on Earth; it went extinct centuries ago. However, that didn't stop it from being one of the most incredible, unique, and interesting animals to ever live most of its life in a cave.

This goat was a mammal, but totally unlike every other mammal in the history of evolution. This is the cold-blooded mammal humans drove to extinction. Though it died out due to overhunting, the Balearic Islands cave goat remains a fascinating look at what could have happened if we had cold blood.

The Giri Putri Cave Crab

Just about every crustacean you'd find in oceans and rivers can be found in caves, too. The Giri Putri cave crab is a good example of overlooked animals that live in caves, face habitat problems, and are pretty awesome.

This red cave crab is found near the Giri Putri Cave Temple—a Buddhist temple that is built inside one of the largest caves in the world. Since humanity turned the caves into a major tourist spot, crab numbers have dwindled.

Can't we save these beloved animals on the brink of extinction? Please?

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Cato Conroy
Cato Conroy

Cato Conroy is a Manhattan-based writer who yearns for a better world. He loves to write about politics, news reports, and interesting innovations that will impact the way we live.

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