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A useful summary of the biological information in '93 for UK caves. Interesting for UK cavers, but perhaps of limited scope for anyone else. A scientifically literate overview of the Uk caving scene with some additional focus on the biology - a subject seldom covered. The opening few chapters look at the formation of cave systesm within limestone across the UK - and how simple geological differences can result in spectacularly different cave features. There's a brief overview of the human exploration and discovery of caves - and the differences in cave size and scale which biology is able to inhabit. Personally as a caver rather than a biologist I would have liked a few more details about some of the caves systems. There is an interesting discussion on the distinctions of definition between a cave visitor, a habitue and a true evolved cave specialist. Given that little work has been made on the frequency of biota in the immidiate above cave zone, the author wisely treats the habituee at the same level as those showing profund evolved differences - as many of these differences are not necesasily visible. Chapter 4 is the longest - being the discussion on the various flora and fauna that can be found in caves. It is mostly restricted to the UK and Ireland, but where appropriate there are discussions of cavelife further affield. It is of course another tribute to Hadley's comment 'that god is inordinently fond of beetles' - most UK cavelife are small insects. Although as the author readily acknowledges, for a variety of reasons we aren't really in a position to know much at all about 'the most UK cavelife'. Human sized passages are far from being the most prevalent - which means that a lot of the cave biota exists in locations exceedingly difficult to study. There have in any case been very few systematic studies of any locale. Chapter 4 goes through the main representatives of each kingdom and phyla that he has observed in UK caves, or that have been reported in other literature - it is somewhat dry reading at times, interspersed with a lot of latin names which all start to seem the same after a while - essentially a lot of little or tiny critters in mudbanks and pools that you're unlikely to see - although some of the centipedes and woodlice shouldn't be too hard. I've never seen any though, which is part of the other problem in cave biology. When a caver turns up wet muddy noisy and bringing a strong light source, everything else has run away. Chapter 5 is slightly more interesting biology - rather than looking at a species or sub species level, it is concerned with the interactions between species - for example the wall communities of the far light, and deep dark zones. Again this is an area that needs much further research and is perhaps easier to conduct than some of the more wide ranging studies proposed earlier on. Finally the book concludes with a few comments on cave conservation - both physically and the issues visiting cavers may have on the biota present. There is a usful glossary plus an extensive list of further reading - the material is not source marked as may be typical for an academic publication, but this does preserve the readability for interested lay persons. There are a few decent black and white photos of the cave passages, but all of the animal pictures are drawings. I would have liked to have seen some more colour - and a sense of scale for the drawings. A useful overview - obviously cave biology in the UK is a relatively unexplored area, and for a dedicated cave biologist there is a lot of work left outstanding. It is also an interesting read for the passing caver, especially those who have visited some of the more famous systems in the UK and Ireland - I'll take closer look at those rockpools and mudbacks next time!
The Cave Habitat
Limestone Caves in Britain and Ireland
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