All posts by Hawkeye-TP

When people see me, they often say "You look like you just crawled out of some hole." I smile and with pride reply, "I did."

White Nose Washington

Earlier this year White Nose was discovered for the first time in the Pacific North-west. This is disheartening news.

White Nose Syndrome
Generalized spatiotemporal spread of Pseudogymnoascus destructans across North America since the initial detection of white-nose syndrome (WNS) in New York in 2006. Map from http://msphere.asm.org.

The question begs: what can we do more to prevent this spread? Obviously we can stop visiting caves. But are there steps we can take before we reach that conclusion? What do you think?

From the article:

On 11 March 2016, a moribund little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) was found in King County, WA (United States), and submitted to a local wildlife rehabilitation center. The animal presented with dried and contracted areas of crusted skin on the wings and died 2 days later. Swab samples of the wings were positive for P. destructans by real-time PCR (8), and the bat was confirmed to have WNS in accordance with defined histopathologic criteria (9). An isolate of P. destructanswas obtained by culturing a portion of wing skin on Sabouraud dextrose agar containing chloramphenicol and gentamicin at 13°C.

In eastern North America, P. destructans appears to be spreading clonally, with all isolates exhibiting no genetic diversity at the markers examined (10). However, isolates of the fungus from Europe display significant genetic variation (11). To determine whether the isolate of P. destructans from Washington matched the clonal lineage from eastern North America, we conducted whole-genome sequencing using the Ion Torrent Personal Genome Machine (PGM) on the Washington isolate (NWHC#27099-001), as well as on three additional isolates of P. destructans from eastern North America. These isolates originated from M. lucifugus bats collected in Albany County, NY, in 2008 (NWHC#20631-008) and in Iowa County, WI, in 2016 (NWHC#26994-002) and a tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus) in Jackson County, AL, in 2015 (NWHC#44797-145).

Please read the full report at msphere.org, the online journal for the American Society of microbiology.

 

Salt Lake Grotto Wins Speleo-Millionaire

We had an awesome night, Nov 2nd, eating mexican food and answering caving trivia. It was a close match between the two grottos, who each selected four champions to represent them. But when the dust settled, and the food was gone, Salt Lake emerged victorious!

Wasatch gave a good showing, and promised a rematch next year. Until then, everyone keep reading and studying. Especially brush up on your local grotto history!

Cave of Crystals, Video 01

I want to start a new segment here at the Wasatch Grotto. I love photo and video. After all, it is what I do for work. So I want to share cool cave videos and photos I come across. It will diversify the information on our site: news, studies, discoveries, and videos.

For now, once a month I’ll post a video about caves. I hope you enjoy them, like I do.

For the first several videos, I’m going to focus on the Cave of Crystals, in mexico. This Cave is connected to the Naica Mine and has the largest crystals in the world. Here is a behind the scenes edit, by host Nik Halik, of a the documentary, just to wet your whistle.

Pleistocene Beringian Wolf Migration

This summer research was being done in the Natural Trap Cave(NTC), that some of us here in Utah got to help out with. Earlier this year a study by Julia  A Meachen, Alexandria L. Brannick,  and Trent J. Fry on the Beringian Wolf, fossils found at NTC, was released. It is a fascinating read.

Abstract

Pleistocene diversity was much higher than today, for example there were three distinct wolf morphotypes (dire, gray, Beringian) in North America versus one today (gray). Previous fossil evidence suggested that these three groups overlapped ecologically, but split the landscape geographically. The Natural Trap Cave (NTC) fossil site in Wyoming, USA is an ideally placed late Pleistocene site to study the geographical movement of species from northern to middle North America before, during, and after the last glacial maximum. Until now, it has been unclear what type of wolf was present at NTC. We analyzed morphometrics of three wolf groups (dire, extant North American gray, Alaskan Beringian) to determine which wolves were present at NTC and what this indicates about wolf diversity and migration in Pleistocene North America. Results show NTC wolves group with Alaskan Beringian wolves. This provides the first morphological evidence for Beringian wolves in mid-continental North America. Their location at NTC and their radiocarbon ages suggest that they followed a temporary channel through the glaciers. Results suggest high levels of competition and diversity in Pleistocene North American wolves. The presence of mid-continental Beringian morphotypes adds important data for untangling the history of immigration and evolution of Canis in North America.

Read their complete and thorough study at Ecology and Evolution.com.

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