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Student Research Pages - Cave or Cavern?

Cover-Cave Creatures

Cave or Cavern?

When you learned about four of our special Texas caves, did you notice two of them had the word "Cavern" as part of their names?

Did it make you wonder if a "cavern" was something different than a "cave?" It's not. A cavern is just a type of a cave.

  • There are lots of types of caves. A cavern is just one type of cave.
  • A cavern is a type of cave that grows "speleothems."
    • Speleothems grow because stuff keeps getting added to make special formations.
  • Exactly what kind of stuff gets added depends on what kind of rock the cave is formed in.
  • Most caverns in Texas are formed in limestone so their speleothems will be formed from limestone deposits.
  • Limestone caverns are the most common type of cavern everywhere, not just in Texas.
  • So...most caverns in Texas will have limestone speleothems.

A cavern IS a cave...
it’s a just a special kind that grows special formations called:


Cave Formations

To make all of these cave formations do you know what a cavern MUST have? WATER! Without water there would be no speleothems.

Without water there would be no cool cave formations.



See how the photo above and the one below look like the draperies (or curtains) in our homes?


More cave draperies resembling those in our homes.


It's easy to see why we call these kinds of cave formations "drapery," isn't it?



(Photo by Sean Mack; Creative Commons)
See how stalactites hang from the TOP and look like icicles?


Stalgmites Carlsbad

Stalagmites form from the BOTTOM of the cave floor and look like cones.

Stalactite and Stalgmite

Here's a trick to help you easily remember that stalactites are the ones on top: Since the word "stalactite" has one more "T" than the word stalagmite, remember that extra "T" is for "TOP"! So...which formation is the stalactite and which one is the stalagmite? (Semhur; Creative Commons)



A cave column forms when a stalactite and a stalagmite connect to make one enormous formation! (Wolfgang Glock; Creative Commons)

<== Texas Caves  |  Life in a Cave - Part 1 ==>