As the Fishes of Missouri 3rd edition sampling expedition comes to close, several of the more difficult species to capture or those Bob Hrabik and I could not obtain ourselves were left to photograph in 2014. One species in particular was the blind and pigment lacking, Southern Cavefish (Typhlichthys subterraneus). Due to the abundance of old records within caves on public grounds, this species was initially set to be an easy check off our massive fish list. Unfortunately, we did not consider the other creatures that live in these caves and how this might affect our cavefish sampling. Due to the onslaught of White Nose Syndrome involving our nocturnal mammalian friends, the majority of these public cave systems now have limited permitted access, and only for bat surveys. We weren’t doing bat surveys…

Southern Cavefish (Typhlichthys subterraneus): Carroll Cave @ Carroll Cave Conservancy. Camdenton County, Missouri. DS2_9588 (2)
Southern Cavefish (Typhlichthys subterraneus):

We were down to two decent leads at this point. One was a sinking stream on public ground with pools, when present, holding cavefish. A recon mission from the on-site naturalist reported one cave entrance piled with rock material deeming it not accessible, and the other had a single pool in previous years that was now back filled with chert. Thankfully our other lead, Bill Gee of the Carroll Cave Conservancy, graciously invited us on a guided tour of Carroll Cave containing our desired Southern Cavefish. The natural entrance of this cave system is on privately held property with no admittance. Fortunately, the Conservancy created their own entrance by dynamiting a hole. This created a 120 foot vertical shaft, now outfitted with a 6 piece ladder and rappelling ropes, down to a strategic cavern. This artificial shaft is now covered by a large metal silo they use for staging. After entering the silo, one descends to a small sub-shaft where safety gear is administered and tied off before climbing on the ladder, and descending. Southern Cavefish were plentiful and easily sampled with a small dip net. Several individuals were hauled back to the surface and photographed.

This was a wonderful experience for me outside my current lab rat routine. I can’t thank Bill Gee and the Carroll Cave Conservancy enough for the weekend adventure and this contribution towards the overall project.

Bill Gee prepares to climb up from Carroll Cave to the surface.

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