Cave environments

Matthew L. Niemiller, Daphne Soares

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

23 Scopus citations


Caves and other associated subterranean habitats represent some of the most challenging environments on Earth. Despite many significant abiotic and biotic obstacles to overcome, most notably the complete absence of light, several groups of fishes thrive in subterranean habitats. The aim of this chapter is to provide a broad yet thorough review of our current knowledge regarding fish adaptations to one of the most extreme habitats on the planet. We begin our chapter by providing an overview of subterranean habitats, focusing on caves, and the major constraints cavefishes must overcome to live in such environments in complete darkness with limited food resources. We then provide an overview of taxonomic diversity and geographic distribution of cavefishes with a brief discussion of syntopy of cavefishes in subterranean habitats. Next we summarize what is known about the physiological, behavioral, and morphological adaptations that have evolved in cavefishes in response to the primary physicochemical and ecological stressors in subterranean habitats. In particular, we focus on adaptations associated with nonvisual sensory modalities. Finally, we offer a few suggestions for avenues of future research in cavefish adaptation and sensory evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationExtremophile Fishes
Subtitle of host publicationEcology, Evolution, and Physiology of Teleosts in Extreme Environments
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages31
ISBN (Electronic)9783319133621
ISBN (Print)9783319133614
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Environmental Science


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