CAVE DWELLING FISHES IN PANHANDLE FLORIDA-Karen A. Brock-man and Stephen A. Bortone, Faculty of Biology, University of West Florida, Pensacola, Florida 32504
Abstract: Explorations in Ellis Cave, Jackson Co., Florida revealed 2 species of cave dwelling fishes: the pirate perch, Aphredoderus sayanus and the redeye chub, Hybopsis harperi. Their presence in the cave is probably facultative and transitory.
We explored Ellis Cave, Jackson Co., Florida on 20-21 December 1975 and 5 March 1977 to follow up on a rumor among local residents concerned with the presence of "blind cave fishes." While our examination of the cave did not reveal any "blind" fish, we did collect and observe 2 fish species, one of which is previously unreported from Florida caves. Previously known Florida cave fishes are all from the central portion of the state and include Hybopsis harperi and the yellow bullhead Ictalurus natalis (Hobbs, 1942; Hubbs, 1956; Relyea and Sutton, 1973).
Ellis Cave is located in an exposed limestone outcrop 0.4 km W of the Chipola River and 2.9 km N of Marianna, Florida. The cave has two entrances and other smaller openings which border the Chipola River flood plain. Ellis Cave consists of alternating narrow passages and wide "rooms", many of which contain quiet, silt bottomed pools. On 20-21 December 1975 the air temperature was 18C and water temperature was 21C. On 5 March 1977 air and water temperatures were 23 and 19C, respectively.
Aphredoderus sayanusThree pirate perch, 40-53 mm standard length (University of West Florida Catalog No.; UWF 2586) were collected by dipnet and minnow trap baited with Vienna sausage on 20-21 December 1975. One of the specimens was taken from a shallow (0.5 m deep) pool just inside the cave entrance. The remaining specimens (and at least 4 other fish seen, but not captured) were located in deeper, larger pools (3 m X 5 rn X 0.1-3 m deep) 50 m or more from a cave entrance. In situ observations indicated that the pirate perch were relatively inactive and did not respond to light or human activity. Pigmentation was slightly reduced on the ventral surface of cheeks, opercles, mandibles, belly and caudal peduncle but otherwise appeared as epigean pirate perch. Summarizing biological data on the three specimens: 1) 40 mm SL male, stomach filled with Cambarus cryptodytes parts and some shrimp and cladocerans; 2) 43 mm SL female, ovary mature, stomach with exoskeleton and mud; 3) 53 mm SL female, ovary mature, stomach with a cladoceran and mud, a vestigial unsegmented anal ray present on right side of anal fin. The occurrence of A. sayanus in a cave calls for a comparison with its closest living relatives, the North American blind cave fishes of the Amblyopsidae. Rosen and Patterson (1969) based this relationship, in part, on the presence of an expanded parasphenoid bone in extant Amblyopsidae and fossil Oligocene and Miocene Aphredod-eridae. Both families have genital papilla in the jugular position in adults. Several features of A. sayanus make it a likely candidate for a cave existence: the cephalic lateral line system is well developed, the species is nocturnal (Parker and Simco, 1975) and it consumes insects as well as a wide variety of food items (Flemer and Woolcott, 1966).
Hybopsis harperiFive redeye chubs were observed in the larger pools on 5 March 1976 and one specimen (31 mm SL, UWF 2587) was captured by dipnet. The fish were inactive when first observed but became active when approached and seemed negatively phototaxic. The captured tuberculate male had enlarged testes and its gut was empty. Pigmentation was pale but apparently normal with pale orange on the snout and dorsal caudal peduncle surfaces. The present distribution of both subterranean and epigean H. harperi closely follows the karst topography and often occurs in areas where underground springs emerge (McLane, 1955). Marshall (1947) noted that H. harperi can eat a variety of small animals. McLane collected juvenile specimens all yr long and attributed the lack of a well defined breeding season to almost constant cave water temperatures. Our discovery of a tuberculate male lends support to the speculation by Relyea and Sutton (1973) that H. harperi may spawn in caves.
No. 4, 1977] BROCKMAN AND BORTONECAVE DWELLING FISHES 407
It is apparent that A. sayanus and H. harperi enter (and leave) Ellis Cave during flooding of the nearby Chipola River. Their preadaptation or potential affinity for subterranean existence may insure their survival as facultative cave residents. Other fish species may also enter the cave during flooding but lack the morphological, feeding, and behavioral features necessary for survival.
Ellis Cave supports a variety of other troglophilic vertebrates such as: the slimy salamander, Plethodon glutinosus; the long-tailed salamander, Eurycea longicauda; and the leopard frog, Rana pipiens. Also found living in the cave were several blind crayfish, Cambarus cryptodytes, and a "white" arachnid, Spermophora meridionalis.
Acknowledgments: We thank C. Wilcox, J. S. Williams, D. Adkison, P. A. Hastings, M. Jeffries, D. Trescott, G. Donahue for aid in collecting the specimens. James Farr identified the arachnid.
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Florida Sci. 40(4):406-407.1977.