Rangelands NRM Blog, News & Resources

Camerons Cave water and ecology investigation extends knowledge of threatened species

[June 2015]

Scientists have been undertaking work to increase their knowledge of threatened species living in underground caves in the north-west rangelands of Western Australia.

Rangelands NRM funding is supporting research by the WA Museum to further understanding of the aquatic and terrestrial subterranean species found in Camerons Cave, south of the Exmouth townsite on the Cape Range peninsula.

The Cave is home to a number of threatened species, including the blind cave gudgeon (Milyeringa veritas), the Camerons Cave pseudoscorpion (Indohya damocles), the Camerons Cave millipede (Stygiochiropus peculiaris) and the Northern Cape Range draculoides (Draculoides brooksi) as well as a suite of species not formally listed as threatened.

The survey work, as described in Rangelands NRM eNews in January 2015, was completed despite flooding that resulted from cyclones Olwyn and Quang earlier this year.

Leading the survey was WA Museum’s Senior Curator Biospeleology, Dr Bill Humphreys.

“The flooded caves destroyed sampling equipment but the wetting of cave sediments allowed some of the cave invertebrates to enter normally dry parts of the caves and permitted sampling,” he said.

Instruments recording the groundwater level showed that the elevated groundwater levels resulting from the floods stayed elevated for long periods, indicating the lack of open conduit connection with the coast.

The study considerably extended the known range of Stygiochiropus species of millipedes on the coastal plain and sampled aquatic cave-adapted species for the first time around Camerons Cave.

It also established that a range of stygobionts1, belonging to various groups of blind crustaceans, encompasses this part of the coastal plain. The blind cave gudgeon, Milyeringa veritas, a listed threatened species, was seen in Camerons Cave for only the third time.

Dr Humphreys said the study also confirmed the continued presence of feral guppies in Dozer Cave which is a threat to the aquatic cave community both at Camerons Cave and more broadly around the peninsula.

“Members of this genus are known to invade cave systems, even into sulphidic water,” he said.

1]  Cave-adapted organisms that live in the aquatic portion of caves; an aquatic troglobite. Also called a stygobite.

Image

Darren Brooks, consultant at BioKarstSearch, squeezing through the entrance to New Mowbowra Cave, one of the North West Cape caves.