this quick note first)
Caves are a unique natural resource found in areas where there is abundant
limestone*. Caves are formed by both chemical
and physical reactions, and almost all cave formation is tied to
water. Caves range from
small body-sized tubes, to huge, arena-sized underground rooms with passages
many meters in height and width. Passages can be horizontally
oriented, and others require special training and equipment to negotiate
because of their vertical nature.
Some caves are heavily decorated
with calcite the mineral limestone is formed from) formations
commonly known as stalagmites
and stalactites. Others
contain delicate formations known as helicites.
Flowstone and cave coral
are found in adundance in Virginia's caves.
Almost all caves support some type of ecosystem that
extends from the entrance and
its immediate environs, all the way through the cave. Many species
use caves for all or part of their lifecycles. Bats are probably the most
widely known cave inhabitant. Big
Brown and Little Brown
bats, and Eastern Pipestrilles are the most common Virginia bats.
These bats are insectivorous, leaving the cave at night to use echolocation
to hunt their prey. Other animals found regularly in caves are salamanders,
spiders, and crickets.
Caves in Virginia are protected by law. It is illegal to mark or deface
the cave in any way, to disturb a cave's inhabitants, to remove anything
except trash from a cave, or to leave anything (including spent carbide
or human waste) behind in a cave. This law applies whether a cave is on
public or private land. With proper education, and good conservation measures,
caves in Virginia can continue to be
studied and enjoyed for many years to come.
The quick note: The highlighted words on
idea in the text. To be able to view these pictures, you really need a
screen resolution of at least 800x600 pixels. Less res will work, but
you'll have to scroll a lot. Back to top.
by David Bunnell, Boulder Creek, Colorado, from the Corel Professional
Photos CD-ROM "Caves", copyright 1994, Corel Corporation.
Bat photography from Bat Conservation International.
* Caves can be formed in other minerals as well, and by processes other
than erosion and chemical reaction, but RASS is a Virginia cave club,
so this site focusses on Virginia caves and caving. Back