The NSS Bulletin - ISSN 1090-6924
Volume 47 Number 2: 136-146 - December 1985

A publication of the National Speleological Society

The Role of Metabolism in the Evolution of Cave Animals
Kathrin Hüppop


This review on the metabolic rates of cave animals includes measurements published by Poulson (1964) and Vandel (1964) and new studies from the last twenty years. All these investigations have been restricted to crustaceans, arthropods, teleosts and urodeles. With a few exceptions, cave animals are characterized by a more or less reduced metabolic rate compared to epigean relatives. Data gained from direct measurements of oxygen consumption and indirect methods (e.g. reative activity and starvation experiments) are discussed separately. In many cave ecosystems the two main characteristics most closely connected with evolution of a low metabolic rate are: The relative constancy of the enviornmental conditons combined with a lack of predators on the one hand and the general food scarcity on the other. A schematic figure (Fig. 5) gives an idea on causes and consequences of cave animal characteristics and their interrelations. The discussion whether the deep sea is a parallel to the cave environment is taken up again. Some recent investigations confirm that deep sea animals have a reduced metabolic rate too, caused by conditions similar to those in caves.

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