Several Texas State Parks are closed due to Tropical Storm Harvey. See state park alerts.

Student Research Pages - Life in a Cave - Part 1

Cover-Cave Creatures

Life in a Cave - Part 1

DR. ANDY GLUESENKAMP – A biologist who studies cave species

Before we learn about the animals that live in our caves, we thought you might like to learn about a human critter who helps us study them.

Andy Gluesenkamp

Photo by Mark Minton

His name is Dr. Andy Gluesenkamp and he is a biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. If you remember that prefix "bio" means "life" then you'll already know that a biologist studies living things.

Some of the living things that Dr. Gluesenkamp studies are cave species.

Q: Have you always loved caves and crawly things?
A: As a child, I was fascinated with insects, amphibians, reptiles and other organisms that I found around my house. I grew up in an area without caves, but I always wanted to explore them. As an adult, I got my chance when I moved to Austin and began caving with others who enjoy adventure.
What's the most important thing you've learned about cave life?
A: Caves are like underground islands, each with its own ecosystem. Caves and the organisms that live in them are extremely delicate, and many cave species are only found in a few caves.
Q: If I want to study cave life or work as a biologist, what should I do now?
A: You should begin developing observation skills and ask questions about what you see around you. Cave biologists must be very good at gathering and sharing information so it's important to learn good note-taking skills as well as language skills. Math can be a big help, too.


Like Dr. Gluesenkamp when he was a kid, we bet you love the thought of exploring caves! In fact, wouldn't it be awesome to live in one?

Uh, wait a minute...

Living in a cave wouldn't be so fun for us humans if we couldn't leave whenever we wanted. If we had to stay in the cave forever we couldn't survive because we don’t have the right adaptations. Yiker dikers!

Now, what if you were an animal with the right adaptations for cave-living? Well, that would be different. Many insects, reptiles, fish and other kinds of animals never do leave the caves they live in because they have very special adaptations that allow them to live there and survive. In fact, if they ever did leave the cave some animals would die!

The adaptations cave-dwellers have depend on the part of the cave they live in. Each part – or zone – of a cave is very different.

Entrance Zone

This part of the cave is a lot like above ground. Here you will usually find sunshine and green plants.

Twilight Zone

The twilight part of the cave is where the cave gets cool and feels kind of wet (we call that "damp"). Some sunlight still reaches here, but not much so green plants don't grow.


This blind millipede lives in the dark zone. (Photo © William R. Elliott)

Dark Zone

This will be the deepest and/or farthest part of the cave where no light can reach. That means no green plants can grow here, for sure! Animals that live here will have adaptations that allow them to survive in total darkness. Some animals that live in the "dark zone" don't even have eyes!


<== Cave or Cavern?  |  Life in a Cave, Part 2 ==>