Caves almost feel like an alien world! The surreal environment hosts animals we normally never see in our everyday lives and contains troves of geological oddities. In those ways, caves really are separate worlds, just waiting for us to explore!
- Bats are not our enemy, but they are actually very important friends! A world without bats would be overflowing with bugs and creepy creatures.
- Bats are like bees, in that they pollinate plants. Pollination is important- without it, plants would not be able to produce seeds or fruit. Every time you eat a peach, you might have a bat to thank for that!
- Bats eat almost half of their body weight in insects every night, often the insects that can make us sick or “bug” us. Can you imagine eating half of your body weight every single day?
- Bats fly using something called echolocation. This means that they emit high pitched sounds that bounce off of objects. These echoes tell them how to navigate, so that they can fly really fast, even in pitch black caves.
- Even though bats fly, they are actually mammals, and the skeleton of their wings is actually very similar to a hand with five fingers.
- Bats are nocturnal, and usually sleep during the day, hanging upside down from cave ceilings.
- Crickets live in caves, and have adapted to the pitch black environment by growing very long antennae and longer than average back legs, which help them make quick escapes.
- Crickets are an important part of a cave ecosystem, providing food for the larger animals.
- Cave spiders often live in wall cracks and under rocks, allowing them to catch prey easily.
- Although you will rarely see them, bears actually do live in the Pikes Peak area. As they look for a warm place to hibernate, a cave may be a good and cozy location for them during the coldest part of the winter. Don’t be nervous, though – bears dislike crowds. Because of this, you probably won’t see a bear at Cave of the Winds Mountain Park!
- Ringtail cats can be found in the area, and they like to slip into the relative safety of caves. Their eyes are even adapted for caves, seeming larger than normal so that they can see better in the dim cave light.
- Caves take many millions of years to form, with Cave of the Winds starting over 500 million years ago!
- Most of the cave formations in this area are made of limestone, which was formed by millions of years of seashells being pressed together. In parts of the caves, you can see the layers, or striations, of rock!
- Speleothems are cave decorations. The most common speleothems are stalactites and stalagmites. They form very slowly from dripping water. They form so slowly that it can take a thousand years for one cubic inch to grow. Imagine if you grew that slowly!The speleothems’ color is determined by mineral content. You will see deep oranges and reds at Cave of the Winds Mountain Park, which means that there is lots of iron in the formations.
- People who cave for fun or for sport are often called spelunkers or cavers.
- Scientists who study caves and their ecosystems are called speleologists, and the actual branch of science is called speleology. Caving is an exciting passion, but one that takes lots of practice and planning! Caving is something that you can do your whole life, and there’s always something new to learn and discover.
Caves are a huge source of information about the planet, providing information about its condition and climate.