A recent survey carried out by researchers from England and Slovenia has charted the invertebrate animals living in thirty-two caves distributed across Scotland.
Although surveys like this have been carried out for the rest of the British Isles, this was the first of its kind in Scotland.
Between 2015 and 2021, the researchers sampled streams, sumps and pools within the caves, using sweep or kick sampling and pond-nets. The sites in this study included the famous Smoo Cave in Sutherland, and others across Assynt, Wester Ross, Skye, Argyll and in Perthshire. The longest caves sampled were those in the dolomitic limestones of the Durness Group (more than 1km in length), and they also sampled some of the more than 150 caves found in the Neoproterozoic Dalradian Supergroup metalimestones, the longest being near Appin.
Species that live entirely below ground are known as stygobitic, and it is thought that stygobitic species of crustaceans in the UK either recolonised our caves following their extinction during the ice ages, or were able to survive beneath the ice sheets, and subsequently dispersed.
To read more about this study and the results, take a look at the paper by Knight et al. 2022.