Friday, March 4, 2011

An interesting isopod

Well...interesting in that it's a pretty recent addition to the cave fauna that is found in the subterranean habitats of Oklahoma's Ozarks. Its official name is Caecidotea mackini, but perhaps a name that rolls off the tongue easier would be its common name, Mackin's Cave Isopod. The species was named in honor of J.G. Mackin, an Oklahoma professor who worked on these organisms back in the 1930s and 1940s. Last week I spent 4 days inventorying caves in Oklahoma with US Fish and Wildlife Service scientists and a colleague/friend/cave biologist from the Atlanta Botanical Garden. During the week, we attempted to visit the only known population of Mackin's Cave Isopod, which is on land owned by The Nature Conservancy. This cave (which I'm not going to name) is particularly interesting as it is home to this isopod, an Oklahoma endemic cave crayfish, and a population of Ozark cavefish. Unfortunately due to the 2 ft of snow several weeks back and several more recent rains, we were unable to go deep into the cave because the water was too high. But, we were able to find a few individuals of the isopod to photograph. It's likely that this species will be found in other caves in the area, but as of now its only known home is this single cave. That knowledge adds additional justification to why The Nature Conservancy is helping protect this piece of the subterranean Ozarks.

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