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Tartarocreagris texana, Tooth Cave Pseudoscorpion

Hidden in the dark depths of Texas’ karst formations, lives a tiny beast called the Tooth Cave Psudoscorpion. These predators may be small in size, only 4mm, but are mighty in force. They use their pedipalps to seize mites, springtails, and other microarthropods. The pedipalps are equipped with poisonous glands that are also used in defense. Concealed in the moist world of subterranean rocks, the Tooth Cave Pseusoscorpian has unexpectedly complex reproductive behavior. Females attach a silk-lined sac to their undersides, in which they lay one to two dozen eggs. Offspring disperse through phoresy, in which they hitchhike by attaching to a large beetle or fly. Individuals are active in spring, summer, and fall but winter in a cocoon.

In Travis County, Texas, on the Edwards Plateau, one can experience the wonder of the Karst Caves. These geologic wonders are formed by the slow dissolution of calcium carbonate from limestone bedrock by mildly acidic groundwater. The caves present a unique set of conditions that has resulted in organisms that are specially adapted. For example this Pseusoscorpian is blind and has elongated appendages, which are common characteristics of cave critters.

Unfortunately, these Pseusoscorpians face such severe threats that they were listed as an engendered species in 1988. Due to urban development, many cave dwelling species have suffered from a severe loss and alternation of habitat. Many caves have been filled in and paved over to make way for the delights of shopping malls and suburban neighborhoods. Quarrying and mining are also significant sources of habitat loss. Human development can change temperature, moisture levels, and alter drainage patterns. As cave conditions are altered by pollutions or other factors, the species is negatively affected. The introduction of Red Ants in 1988 is also a cause for concern, as these ants prey upon the Pseusoscorpians directly and may cause other indirect problems. The limited distribution, specialization, and low population densities make the Tooth Cave Pseudoscorpion a high risk species.

The Tooth Cave Pseudoscorpion is not the only organism that is negatively affected by these patterns. Six other cave invertebrates are endangered as well as two species of salamanders, two birds, and several fish. The below-ground invertebrates depend on above ground processes for nutrients, conditions stability, and erosion control.

A recovery plan was created in 1994 to survey and research, protect and manage targeted habitats, create educational programs, and continually monitor involved programs. These efforts include the Regional karst and biospeleological surveys, the Fire ant control study, LakeLine Mall Habitat Conservation Plan, and the Regional Habitat Conservation Plan. Through these studies and other measures, areas of protection will be identified. Land acquisition, conservation easements, cooperative agreements, and cave gating are additional methods to ensuring the long term protection of this and other species on the Edwards Plateau.


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