The invertebrate fauna of the caves of the Uinta Mountains, northeastern Utah

Great Basin Naturalist, Dec 1981

Seven large caves in the Uinta Mountains, Utah, were surveyed for their invertebrate faunas. Thirty-eight species were found, and 30 of these are typical cave inhabitants. Diptera are the predominant group. Cave-restricted species are an amphipod, two diplurans, and possibly a Rhagidia mite. The caves were probablv uninhabitable in the past glacial because of severe periglacial environmental conditions, and the faunas have moved into the present cave sites since deglaciation of the Uintas.

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The invertebrate fauna of the caves of the Uinta Mountains, northeastern Utah

The in vertebrate fauna of the caves of the Uinta Mountains, northeastern Utah Stewart B. Peck 0 1 0 Thi s Article is brought to you for free and open access by the Western North American Naturalist Publications at BYU ScholarsArchive. It has been accepted for inclusion in Great Basin Naturalist by an authorized administrator of BYU ScholarsArchive. For more information , please contact 1 Carleton University , Ottawa , Canada Follow this and additional works at: http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/gbn Recommended Citation - .\bstract.— Seven large caves in the Uinta Mountains, Utah, were surveyed for their invertebrate faunas. Thirtveight species were found, and 30 of these are typical cave inhabitants. Diptera are the predominant group. Caverestricted species are an aniphipod, two diplurans, and possibly a Rhat:,idi(i mite. The caves were probablv uninhabitable in the past glacial because of severe periglacial environmental conditions, and the faunas have moved into the present cave sites since deglaciation of the Uintas. Since the helpful checklist of Nicholas (1960) , much additional survey work has been completed on the cavernicolous invertebrate faunas of the United States (see review in Peck and Lewis 1978) . However, gaps still exist in certain western states, and these should be filled in an attempt to achieve a comprehensive understanding and a unified general theory of the evolution and distribution of North American cave invertebrates (Peck 1978, 1981) . The Uinta Mountains of northeastern Utah are ringed by limestone and contain many caves, but no effort seems to have been made to characterize their fauna. Field work was conducted in August 1979 to remedy this. Extensive information is available on the caves of Utah, although much of it exists in obscure publications. A general overview of Utah speleology is given by Green (1963 a), and White (1979) discusses karst landforms in the Uinta Mountains. Brief information on the caves studied follows. These are the largest known in the Uintas and are the most likely to have a variety of microhabitats, and thus to support the greatest diversity of invertebrate fauna. Cave locations are shown in Figure 1. They are indicated on USGS topographic maps and on U.S. Forest Service maps of the Ashley and Uinta Forests. All the caves are formed in the Madison and Deseret lime.<=^ ^ c^' UINTA MOUNTAINS ^^ <^ \?><i^ „,.^ » 6t.i- <^Jr5»T^^ t <3^^DFR0RyK BCR^EiEiKlnV \ V BRUSH ^^^"^ "^(^^ 5 10 15 MILES 20 25 stones of Mississippian age. Because caves are fragile environments, excessive and careless visitation to them should not be encouraged. road 104, about 9700 ft elev., about 15 mi NNW of Lapoint. The cave's slotlike entrance is at the bottom of an aspen-lined sink. The cave consists solely of a low chamber 30 feet wide and 60 feet long, floored with dirt and much ice. The fauna is concentrated on the cave ceiling and uses the cave as a daytime retreat or as an aestivation site. When insects die they fall to the ice and may be preserved there. Other arthropods are in litter and decaying debris at the base of the entrance slope. The air temperature was 4 C (RH 85 percent) 3 ft above the ice. Whiterocks Cave, Duchesne County, Sec. 1, T 2 N, R 1 W, about 8000 ft elev., high on cliffs above Whiterocks River Canyon, about 10 mi N of Whiterocks, or 15 mi NNW of Lapoint. The gated cave entrance is reached by an arduous climb. Entry is allowed only with forestry personnel and arrangements must be made with the Vernal office several weeks in advance. This is a large cave of irregular dimensions, and it is certainly in need of protection to conserve it. Much of this cave, about 3000 ft long, is generally moist but lifeless, and fauna was found associated with moist rat dung only near the entrance. Many dripstone pools are present but are also barren of life. The temperature was 7.5 C (RH 94 percent). The abundant packrat middens may contain a valuable record of past climatic and floristic changes in the area of the cave (see Van Devender and Spaulding 1979) . Pole Creek Cave, Duchesne County, Sec. 24, T 3 N, R 2 W, off forest road 117, around 7000 ft elev., about 12 mi NW of Whiterocks or 23 mi NNW of Roosevelt. The cave entrance is a flood-water stream resurgence at the base of a limestone slope. The sink of Pole Creek is a broad area about V2 mi north. The low entrance leads to a large ascending stream passage floored with sand, mud, and water-sculptured rock. About 600 ft of passage exists before a deep pool floods the cave from wall to wall. The air temperature was 8.5 C (RH 87 percent) and the water was 8 C. The fauna was on damp soil near scarce bits of organic debris, or on the ceiling at the entrance. Sheep Creek Cave, Daggett County, Sec. 16, T 2 N, R 19 E, at 7040 ft elev., about 7 mi SW of Manila. The cave is formed in vertical limestones on the west wall of Sheep Creek Canyon where this intersects the Uinta Crest fault. The Forest Service has protected the cave entrance, some 30 m above the cave stream resurgence, by a gate, but this has been vandalized. The main cave passage is the abandoned upper level of the stream that now resurges at a lower level. I judge the ashy nature of much of the cave floor, the "burnt" smell in the cave, and the soot-darkened ceiling to indicate that large accumulations of organic matter, such as packrat nests, formerly existed here but have been burned. This likely happened in or before 1950, and is regrettable because a valuable paleoenvironmental record (see Van Devender and Spaulding 1979) has been mostly lost. A few isolated middens still exist near the entrance. The "burned" part of the cave is barren. Lower levels near the stream had a sparse fauna on mud banks. The stream seems to carry only finely divided organic matter. The air temperature was 9.5 C (RH 94 percent) at the stream and the stream was 9 C. Annotated Faunal List one cave record from Texas (Christiansen and Bellinger 1980:437) . Onychiurus ramosus Folsom, K. Christiansen det., troglophile. Whiterocks Cave, on moist rat dung. The species is widespread across the United States, with only two cave records from Virginia (Christiansen and Bellinger 1980:453) . Family Tomoceridae Tomocerus flavescens (Tullberg), K. Christiansen det., troglophile. Big Brush Creek Cave, Little Brush Creek Cave, Pole Creek Cave. Christiansen (1964 ) notes that the species is spread across the continent and is known from caves in 14 states. Order Diplura Family Campodeidae Haplocampa sp., L. M. Ferguson det., troglobite. Pole Creek Cave. This is a new species with an unusual morphology. The genus contains cavernicolous species in Illinois, Missouri, California, and Washington; and epigean species in California, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Alberta. Haplocampa sp., L.M. Ferguson det., troglobite. Sheep Creek Cave, Little Brush Creek Cave, Big Brush Creek Cave. This is a new species and may represent a new genus. Order Coleoptera Family Carabidae Bembidion sp., accidental. Big Brush Creek Cave, on flood debris. Rhadine sp., troglophile. Dry Forks Cave, one dead on sand bank. Family Staphylinidae Quedius spelaeus Horn, troglophile. Dry Forks Cave, many in Neotoma dung and nest debris. The species occurs across the continent, frequently in caves (Smetana 1971) . Genus and species undetermined, troglophile? Ice Cave, two in entrance debris. These are in the subfamily Aleocharinae, which is frequently found in caves. "Family Scarabaeidae Aphodins sp., accidental. Ice Cave, three in entrance debris. Family Spheroceridae Leptocera sp., R. Vockeroth det., trogloxene or troglophile. Ice Cave, Dry Forks Cave. Family Phoridae Megascelia sp., R. Vockeroth det., trogloxene or troglophile. Ice Cave. Family Heleomyzidae Genus and species undetermined, trogloxene or troglphile. Ice Cave. Family Anthomyidae Genus and species imdetermined, accidental. Ice Cave. Discussion A total of 38 species were found in caves in the Uinta Mountains. Of these, 30 species are in taxa that are typical of caves and cavelike habitats in North America in their behavioral, ecological, and evolutionary characteristics. The only true cave-limited species are the amphipod, 2 diplurans, and possibly the Rhadidia mite. As habitats, the caves themselves are probably preglacial in time of origin, especially White Rocks Cave. The caves may not have been overridden by the Pleistocene piedmont and valley glaciers coming from the Uinta Mountain uplands (Atwood 1904, Hansen 1975), but they would have suffered extreme and prolonged flooding and scouring by meltwater streams. The caves were probably uninhabited during glacials because they were colder, there was less food input due to periglacial climatic conditions, and because of meltwater scouring. Thus, the fauna probably represents an occupation of caves sometime in the past 10,000 years since the last glacial. In this respect the fauna is very similar to that of Ontario, Canada, caves which have been occupied since the last glacial, and have an abundance of trogloxenic diptera (Peck, unpubl. ms.). The amphipod may be an exception to this generalization. Holsinger (1980 ) thinks that some groundwater amphipods may have existed under glacial ice masses, but I am inclined to keep open the alternative of movement from unglaciated peripheral refugia, through interstices in groundwater, into the area after deglaciation (Peck and Lewis 1978) . A large fauna is known to live in the west in the interstices of gravels and coarse streamside sediments (Stanford and Gaufin 1974), which knowledge supports the possibility of such faunal movements. Future research can contribute by surveying cave faunas in the western Uintas. The area of greatest present ignorance of cave faunas is in the details of their life cycles and seasonal dynamics. Most rewarding would be careful ecological study of the troglobites or of the trogloxenic Diptera. Acknowledgments We thank Forest Ranger Mike Bergfeld and Forest Recreation Officer Tom Contreras of the Vernal U.S. Forest Service Office for allowing study in White Rocks Cave. The field work was supported by operating grants of the Canadian Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council to investigate the distribution and ecology of subterranean faunas. The help of the many taxonomists with determinations is deeply appreciated. Literature Cited 196.3c. Little Brush Creek, Kaler, and Capture Caves (Uintah Comity, Utah). Salt Lake Grotto (National Speleological Society), Technical Note 56 (March 1961). Reprinted in 1963 Speleo Di Atwood , W. \V. 1909 . Glaciation of the Uinta and Wasatch Mountains . U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 61 , 96 pp. Barr , T. C , Jr. 1968 . Cave ecology and the evolution of troglobites . Evolutionary Biol . 2 :.3. 5 - 102 . Christia.nse.n, K. 1964 . A revision of the Nearctic members of the genus Tomocerus (Collembola entomobryidae) . Rev. Ecoi. Biol. Soc. 4:6 . 39 - 678 . Christiansen , K. , and P. Bellinger . 1980 . The Collembola of North America north of the Rio Grande, a taxonoinic analysis . Part 2 : 387 - 784 . Grinnei! College, Grinnell, Iowa. Elliott , W. R. 1976 . New cavernicolous Rhagidiidae from Idaho , Washington, and Utah (Prostigmata: Acari: Arachnida). Occ. Pap. Mus. Texas Tech. Univ., no. 43 , 15 pp. Green , D. J. 1957 . The Dry Fork cave system , Uintah County, Utah. Salt Lake Grotto (National Speleological Society) , Technical Note 43 . Reprinted in 1957 Speleo Digest, Pittsburgh, 1 -119-1-126. 196 .3a. Introduction to the speleology of Utah and adjacent areas . Salt Lake Grotto (National Speleological Society) , Technical Note 60 (July 1961 ). Reprinted in 1963 Speleo Digest , Pittsburgh, 1 - 236 . 1 - 246 . 1963b. Progress report on Big Brush Creek Cave (Uintah County , Utah). Salt Lake Grotto (National Speleological Society) , Technical Note 57 144 pp. HoLsiNGER , J. R. 1974 . Systematics of the subterranean amphipod genus Stygobwtntis (Gammaridae) , Part I : Species of the western United States . Smithsonian Contr. Zool. no. 160 , 63 pp. 1980 . Stygobromus canadensis, a new subterranean amphipod crustacean (Crangonyctidae) from Canada, with remarks on Wisconsin refugia . Can. J. Zool . 58 : 290 - 297 . Nicholas , G. 1960 . Checklist of macroscopic triglobitic organisms of the I'nited States . .\mer. Midi. Na- Peck , S. B. 1978 . New montane Ptotnaphagus beetles from New Mexico and Zoogeography of southwestern caves (Coleoptera; Leioididae; Catopinae) . Southwestern Natur . 23 : 227 - 238 . 1981 . Climatic change and the evolution of cave invertebrates in the Grand Canyon, Arizona . Natl. Speleol. Soc. Bull . 42 . In press. Peck , S. B. , and J. J. Lewis . 1978 . Zoogeography and evolution of the subterranean invertebrate faunas of Illinois and southeastern Missouri . Natl. Speleol. Soc. Bull . 40 :. 39 - 63 . Smetana , a. 1971 . Revision of the tribe Quediini of America north of Mexico (Coleoptera: Staphvlinidae) . Mem. Ent. Soc. Canada , no. 79 , .303 pp. Stanford , J. A. , and R. Gaufin . 1974 . Hyporheic communities of two Montana rivers . Science 185 : 700 - 702 . Van Devender , R. R. , and W. G. Spaulding . 1979 . Development of vegetation and climate in the southwestern United States . Science 204 : 701 - 710 . White , W. B. 1979 . Karst landforms in the Wasatch and Uinta Mountains, Utah . Natl. Speleol. Soc. Bull . 41 : 80 - 88 .


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Stewart B. Peck. The invertebrate fauna of the caves of the Uinta Mountains, northeastern Utah, Great Basin Naturalist, 1981,