Nematodes in caves: a historical perspective on their occurrence, distribution and ecological relevance

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Caves and cave-dwelling biota have fascinated scientists for centuries. Nevertheless, there is a considerable lack of information on subterranean realms and the ecosystems they host. Nematoda, for example, is a group of invertebrates that plays an important role in the functioning of epigean ecosystems, but whether or not the same is true for subterranean ecosystems remains unknown. For this reason it was decided to conduct an in-depth review of all reports related to cave-dwelling nematodes in order to provide a sound basis for future studies. A literature survey of 41 scientific works from over the last 138 years revealed 295 unique taxa reported from 78 different cave systems. The historical trends in cave nematology, peculiar findings from important studies and an ecological classification system are discussed. Lastly, the trophic distribution of the reported taxa is presented, whilst nematodes from other (non-cave) subterranean environments are also considered.

Nematology

International Journal of Fundamental and Applied Nematological Research

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References

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Figures

  • Locations of nematological investigations in inland caves are numbered (Table 1) and colour coded according to the publication date of scientific work, i.e., 1: Joseph (1879), 103: Abolafia et al. (2016). Selected areas (A: Europe; B: Cuba and part of Mexico; C: southern Africa) are enlarged.

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  • Number of cave-dwelling nematode taxa recorded in single publication records over time. Visible cave numbers (as in Table 1) refer to a selection of publications describing diverse assemblages, i.e., 8: De Coninck (1939), 13: Schneider (1940), 17: Schuurmans Stekhoven (1943), 29: Andrássy (1959), 81: Durand et al. (2012), 99: Du Preez et al. (2015b).

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  • Correlation between the number of nematode taxa and the number of individuals identified from caves. The best fit (R2=0.73; y=0.8537x0.5635) was presented by a power-curve (dotted line).

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  • Percentage trophic distribution of all cave-dwelling nematode taxa from the literature (see Table S1 in the online edition of this journal, which can be accessed via http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/journals/15685411).

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