Dicromantispa interrupta

Dicromantispa interrupta

Monday, March 31, 2008

Mar 28 - 30, 2008 Florida Cave Crawl

This past weekend I attended the Florida Cave Crawl, which is held annually and hosted by each of the four NSS grottos (local caving clubs) around the state in turn. This year’s event was held near Tallahassee and put on by the Flint River Grotto. There was a nightly campfire to sit around and tell stories and lies, trips out to nearby caves and eco-hotspots, a Saturday night catered dinner accompanied by a local band called Naked Cavers, cool-weather camping, and meetings of the Florida Cave Survey and NSS 2008 Convention Committee.

Saturday I went to Hollow Ridge Cave with about 18 more people, with 15 of us being led by Allen Mosler. Inside the cave I saw two small concentrations of camel crickets on the walls, which hang out in the cave during the day and feed outside at night, but no bats. The cave is quite muddy, so we wandered down to a creek within the Chipola River floodplain to wash off our gear and exposed skin. Returning to the campground, I was blessed with a very cold shower.

Sunday, after the FCS and convention meetings, four of us went to explore along a bluff adjacent to the Apalachicola River on the Aspalage tract. My companions were Bruce (Sleazeweasel), Matt K and Alan C. This area we visited is a mile or so south of the I-10 bridge, is vegetated with a mixture of subtropical Florida and temperate continental flora. Being used to forests dominated by live oaks, laurel oaks and sweetgum, I really enjoyed the hybrid forest composed of live oak and various deciduous oaks, southern magnolia, beech, sweetgum, basswood, hickory and the like.

Of special note (to me) were the Atamasco lily (Zephyranthes atamasco), brown trillium (Trillium underwoodii), Chapman’s rhododendron (Rhodendron chapmanii), fan maidenhair fern (Adiantum tenerum) and Florida torreya (Torreya taxifolia).

I also saw three species of wildlife that I would never see around my usual stomping grounds, the gray rat snake (Elaphe obsolete obsoleta), copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) and three-lined salamander (Eurycea longicauda). Within one of the little caves we explored was a 2cm long salamander larvae. I have pics above of the gray rat snake (but without its head! Sob!) and the three-lined salamander. The larval salamander was too small for my camera. Here are better pictures of the three-lined salamander than mine:


We were too busy jumping out of the way of the copperhead to take its photograph. It lay still as we walked almost completely around it, but as soon as the snake realized we had spotted it, it made a mad dash for the nearest cave entrance and disappeared into a pool of water. We could have chased after the serpent but we would have had to go head-first down a steep slope under a low cave ceiling, dipping one ear under water, just to look up and into ..., what? A cave passage? A snake’s irritated face. No thanks.

I found a small cave that I had to dig my way into. It is appx 2ft wide and 2.5ft high, and maybe 40ft – 50ft long. Alan found and photographed a fossilized tooth that might belong to a Plio-Pleistocene horse, camel or the like. Alan thought it was from a young individual due to the lack of wear on the top of the tooth. I have included a photo of the cave’s entrance after it was dug out.

Another cave containing several hundred feet of passage was previously found by Matt and shown to Alan and me. Its passage is larger than the first cave, up to appx 6ft high and almost that wide. We found an epigean (normally lives in above-ground streams) crayfish and a Southeastern pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus subflavus) in this cave.

I believe the limestone we encountered that day was the Bashi Marl formation. This is a very soft, fossiliferous chalky rock that can be crumbled in your hand the way Superman does to granite. There is a good description of the rock and its outcrops at these two links:


Having a long drive home ahead of me, I left Alan and Matt at that point and hiked back to my van. Sleaze, unfortunately, lost his brand-new digital SLR camera somewhere out in the woods, so he split off from us before we reached the caves. We never saw him again. I hope he found that camera.

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