Over the summer, I did some light spelunking, cave exploring, when I was in Wisconsin. After coming back home and talking about my experience with my friends, I realized not many people know that Florida has caves. If anything, people who live in my area from Tampa don't usually know this. We mainly cruise along our coastline and relax on our beaches, but not many of us explore Florida to its full capacity. In my opinion, the least we can do is learn about caves and hopefully appreciate them.
The formation of Florida's marvelous caves is based upon the type of rock in an area and the presence of water. Florida has karst topography, which is a type of landscape that is made of rocks, like limestone, that dissolves away with water. Ultimately, over thousands of years of weathering, massive underground caves can be formed. Karst topography is also characterized by sinkholes and karst windows, which are direct openings in the ground to the aquifer. Devil's Den is probably the most well-known karst window in north Florida, with its radiantly blue water and lovely snorkeling opportunities.
Geology aside, there are a lot of other fascinating things about caves. Personally, I love learning about the troglobites, cave-dwelling animals, that inhabits these spaces. Troglobites live their entire lives in a single cave and so they have had to adapt to survive in these plant lacking, dark environments. Since these animals never see the light, they do not have any pigment in their skin, cannot see but gained antennae as they evolved over time. These adaptations occurred because it was a waste of energy to keep maintaining some parts of their body but advantageous to have others. Additionally, troglobites are very small animals, like millipedes, because there simply is not enough food for a big animal to survive in these conditions. These animals are so heavily adapted to their environment that if they are brought out of a cave, they will die.
Lastly, caves in Florida are very significant anthropologically. Native Americans sometimes resided in these caves. Shards of pots, arrows heads and much more have been found in them. While to some people these artifacts may not mean much, these are fundamentally little pieces of culture that can be used to study the people who were here before us.
Ultimately, caves deserve our protection and care just like any other environment. It took a long time for these to be formed, there is a more fascinating life than you'd expect, and there even is historical value. Truly, there are more to caves than simply darkness.