The longest cave in the world, with more than 400 miles of connected passages and chambers, Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave provides plenty of room for a multitude of animal species. Cave dwellers, or troglofauna, exist in three forms: species that are full-time inhabitants, species that leave the cave for meals and those that use the cave only for occasional shelter. From bullfrogs and bats to crickets and rats, more than 200 species of animals inhabit Mammoth Cave.
Animals that spend their entire lives in caves and cannot survive on the outside are called troglobites. The lack of sunlight in caves causes many troglobites to be white in color due to a loss of pigmentation and eyeless because they have adapted to living without light. Troglobites are generally smaller animals with lower metabolisms. Some examples of Mammoth Cave troglobites are the Kentucky cave shrimp, the eyeless cave fish, the cave cricket and the cave fly.
Animals that are capable of living outside of a cave, as long as it is in cavelike environment, but are also able to live their entire lives in caves are known as troglophiles. Troglophiles do not require full-time complete darkness like troglobites do; though they prefer a very dim environment. Troglophiles found in Mammoth Cave include the cave crayfish, the sculpin, the springfish, salamanders and spiders.
Animals that rely on caves for shelter or to hibernate but leave regularly for food are called trogloxenes. According to Great Outdoor Recreation Pages, trogloxenes spend the majority of their lives in caves when they are not gathering food. Full-time cave inhabitants count on trogloxenes for much of their food; they eat remnants of the trogloxenes’ meals as well as droppings. Mammoth Cave trogloxenes include pack rats, bats and cave crickets.
Animals that do not spend the majority of their lives in Mammoth Cave but do make their homes in the 52,000-plus acres of the Mammoth Cave National Park forest are considered surface animals. Surface animals go in Mammoth Cave, too, and are important to full-time cave inhabitants for providing food. Surface animals in Mammoth Cave National Park range in size from the tiny pygmy shrew to the white-tailed deer. Foxes, finches, rabbits, owls, and numerous others inhabit the park as well.
Laura Payne has been freelance writing for several online publications in her free time since 2006. She holds a Master of Arts in linguistics from Wayne State University and a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Oakland University. Payne teaches linguistics classes at both universities on an adjunct basis.