The Wasatch Grotto is a chapter of the National Speleological Society, a national organization with over 12,000 members that encourages the study, exploration, and conservation of cave and karst resources. The NSS and member Grottos work to protect access to caves, encourage responsible cave management, and promote responsible caving.

Everyone is welcome to our meetings and to come cave with us!

Upcoming Grotto meeting:

Date: October 10th, Monday.
Time: 7pm
Location: Bountiful Library, @ 725 S Main St, Bountiful, UT 84010 | # (801) 295-8732.
Presentation: TBD

New Mexico: Carlsbad Cavern

Have you been down to the caves in New Mexico yet? Here is an awesome article about Carlsbad Caverns. This was published in New Zealand of all places. They did a great job capturing the majesty of the caves!

The Carlsbad caves were formed over millennia and need careful curation to balance care and access. Photo / 123RF
The Carlsbad caves were formed over millennia and need careful curation to balance care and access. Photo / 123RF

“Caves are like the unknown,” Joop says. “Since I can’t go to the moon and explore other planets, this is the last unknown realm on the planet. We’ve gone to the highest peaks and everything, but there’s so much yet to be found and explored here underground.”

More than 400,000 people visit the Carlsbad Caverns each year to get a glimpse of the monumental stalagmites and stalactites, delicate soda straws, translucent draperies and reflective pools that decorate the park’s main attraction, the Big Room. But few experience the more extreme tour through Lower Cave or a lantern-lit history lesson in Left Hand Tunnel.

Even fewer people get to crawl through the Hall of the White Giant and Spider Cave, which are the most difficult – and quickly booked – of the ranger-guided caving tours.

Read the full article at NZ Herald.

DETERMINING WHEN A CROLL ASCENDER IS WORN OUT

Early this year Petzl released a warning about worn out CROLL ascenders.

Possible consequences of using a worn out CROLL ascender

Under certain usage conditions related to environment and technique, using a CROLL ascender that is worn beyond the retirement criteria can result in a hole in the stainless steel wear plate. Once the hole starts to form, the opening enlarges to the edge of the stainless wear plate and creates a sharp edge that makes the CROLL unusable with a foot ascender: the sharp edge can catch on the rope, preventing the CROLL from sliding and possibly damaging the rope sheath.
The caver may then find it necessary to immediately stop using the CROLL, while he is still underground. Without a spare ascender, the only solution is to climb without a foot ascender, carefully, using only the footloop to avoid tensioning the rope in the CROLL.

Information spéciale : bien détecter la fin de vie d’un bloqueur CROLL en spéléologie © PETZL

Worn out ascender and rope damage resulting from its use.

Factors in determining when a CROLL ascender is worn out

In all cases the CROLL ascender must not be used and the product must be retired.

  • Cam is worn out

Indicated by significant wear of the teeth (see photos) or by ascender slippage.

Information spéciale : bien détecter la fin de vie d’un bloqueur CROLL en spéléologie © PETZL

Petzl offers more signs of wear and a complete safety overview of all their ascenders. Check it out and give it a look. It may save your life!

Surface-Going Cave Crickets more Isolated than Cave-dwelling Cousins

A pair of Ceuthophilus crickets. (Drexel University)
A pair of Ceuthophilus crickets. (Drexel University)

Genetic research is showing that certain types of crickets that live entirely in caves (in the Southern US) are more genetically diverse than their cousins who venture to the surface to forage.

It seems like this should be the other way around, since the foraging crickets are traveling more in the caves and out of the caves.

“The main issue is that Ceuthophilus leaves the cave to forage at night, whereas Geotettix doesn’t. That led us to hypothesize that perhaps Ceuthophilus was better at dispersing and might not show as much genetic structure,” said Jason Weckstein, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science at Drexel University’s College of Arts and Science. “In fact, what we found was the Ceuthophilus showed deeper — older — structure than Geotettix.”

The crickets in the study live in a variety of caves in central Texas, from which the team collected specimens and then analyzed their DNA.

Ceuthophilus are known to be trogloxenes, meaning that they live parts of their lives in caves. Species in the Ceuthophilus sub-genus lay their eggs and spend the day in caves but come out to forage at night.

Geottetix, meanwhile, are troglobites, which means that they spend all of their lives deep in caves. The team wrote that Geotettix have almost never been recorded on the surface outside a cave entrance.

Read the full article at Drexel Now.

Climbing Cavefish, Batman!

Researchers have found a blind cavefish that can climb waterfalls. No, I am not making this up. The New Jersey Institute of Technology featured this story.

This research is reported in a March 24 Nature Scientific Reports article, “Tetrapod-like pelvic girdle in a walking cavefish,” by Brooke Flammang, Daphne Soares, Julie Markiewicz and Apinun Suvarnaraksha. Flammang and Soares, assistant professors in the NJIT Department of Biological Sciences, were assisted with the research by Markiewicz, an NJIT post-baccalaureate research volunteer in the Flammang lab at the university. Investigator Suvarnaraksha is a member of the Faculty of Fisheries Technology and Aquatic Resources of Maejo University in Thailand. The full text of their article is available at www.nature.com/articles/srep23711.

Flammang studies fish locomotion at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, so she’s used to seeing fish moving on land. She wasn’t surprised to see one that could push itself over rocks and through water gushing like a fire hose. But other “walking” fish hop forward by leaning on their pectoral fins like a pair of crutches, or flex and shimmy to wriggle over surfaces. This one was taking steps, moving one of its front fins in time with the back fin on the other side of its body, alternating in a diagonal two-step like a salamander. Flammang was incredulous. “I was like, ‘Fish can’t do that,’” she says. “That’s ridiculous.”

Read more at: NJIT.com and at Wired.com

Climate change helps bats to spread their wings

Kuhl's Pipistrelle, from Springer.com
Kuhl’s Pipistrelle, from Springer.com

Climate change and spreading bat populations; what a topic! Europe is experiencing a impressive spread of the Kuhl’s pipistrelle and they think changing climate is increasing it’s habitable territory. Springer has the report:

The team collected 25,132 high-resolution records of where the bat occurred in Europe between 1980 and 2013. These were used in conjunction with various models to predict whether the colonisation of new areas over the years has been prompted by increased urbanisation or by changes in the climate.

When first recorded, Kuhl’s pipistrelle was typically found over large areas of North Africa, southern Europe and Western Asia. In southern Europe its distribution was originally confined to the Mediterranean basin. It extended east to the Balkans, west to the Iberian Peninsula and north to the Alps and western France. By the 1980s, the bat was also reported in northern France and Bulgaria. Slowly but surely it has spread to other countries, including the United Kingdom to the north and eastern regions such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Poland.

Read it all on Springer.com

Prehistoric Man Had a Penchant for Tortoises

Remains discovered in Qesem Cave, near Tel Aviv, shows that early humans had a taste for turtles.

Tel Aviv University researchers, in collaboration with scholars from Spain and Germany, have uncovered evidence of turtle specimens at the 400,000-year-old site, indicating that early man enjoyed eating turtles in addition to large game and vegetal material. The research provides direct evidence of the relatively broad diet of early Paleolithic people — and of the “modern” tools and skills employed to prepare it.

The research team discovered tortoise specimens strewn all over the cave at different levels, indicating that they were consumed over the entire course of the early human 200,000-year inhabitation. Once exhumed, the bones revealed striking marks that reflected the methods the early humans used to process and eat the turtles.

Read the full article at Tel Aviv University‘s site.

What Bats Reveal About How Humans Focus Attention

Research into how bats’ brains filter noise show that they are super good at sifting through a sea of sound, and focusing on their own chirp echoes.

“With so many stimuli in the world, the brain needs a filter to determine what’s important,” said Melville J. Wohlgemuth, the lead author and a postdoctoral fellow in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. “The bat brain has developed special sensitivities that allow it to pick out sounds from the environment that are pertinent to the animal. We were able to uncover these sensitivities because we used the perfect stimulus — the bat’s own vocalizations.”

The researchers experimented with five big brown bats, playing them a variety of sounds while monitoring their midbrain activity. They played recordings of natural chirps, the actual sounds bats made as they hunted. They also played artificial white noise and sounds between the two extremes. All of the sounds were identical in amplitude, duration and bandwidth.

Although sensorimotor neurons in the bat midbrain reacted to all of the sounds, the neurons involved in stimulus selection, those that guide orienting behaviors, responded selectively to a subset of the natural chirps.

Read the full report at John Hopkins University.

Blind Cave Fish-inspired Sensor to Regulate IVs

(L-R) Blind cave fish has an uncanny ability to swim adeptly at high speeds underwater without colliding into any surrounding objects. Protruding outside its entire body are hundreds of neuromasts (lateral line system) that detect movement and pressure changes in the surrounding water. Inspiration from this fish has led to the development of these ultra-sensitive, high resolution, low-cost, miniaturised, zero-powered sensors that is the size of a mere speck on a Singapore 5-cents coin. (photo from SMART Press)

Inspired by the blind cave fish, researchers at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) [新加坡-麻省理工学院科研中] have developed Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) flow sensor so tiny and sensitive that it can be implanted into the IV or intravenous set-up, to aid in regulating the velocity of the fluid flow with minimal intervention by the nurses, thereby reducing their workload while increasing their productivity by 30%; and significantly decreasing the complications of drug infusion via IV therapy. These sensors can also be incorporated into marine underwater robots, lending them sensitivities to wakes, akin to the blind cave fish itself, so that the robots can manoeuvre in a highly energy-efficient manner.

Read the full article at SMART Press.