In the early 1900’s, Milton Ray, a poet and scientist who visited the Farallones several times, described the Lost World Cave in the following poem:
More strange the Lost World Cave. Ah me!
How few have trod its rough dark floor,
Where chambers weird in endless maze
Far downward lead, through darksome ways.
Ray photographed the cave, but after his last visit, he stated that its entrance had been collapsed by islanders to prevent children from entering and getting lost. Although, the reputed photograph of the Lost World Cave shows limestone features, which contradict the granitic composition of the island, contemporary islanders have always wondered about its existence and where it might be located.
|Reproduced from "The Farallones, The Painted World, and Other Poems of California, vol. 2" by Milton Ray|
On 11 and 12 November 2011, we explored all of the known, accessible Farallon caves with the crew of Island Conservation to estimate the population of the endemic Farallon Cave Cricket. The Farallon Islands are pockmarked with wave-carved sea caves. Most of these caves are still at sea level, with waves rolling in and out, excavating minute quantities of material with each thundering slap. Most of these caves, though, are difficult to access and unlikely to harbor crickets anyhow, so we did not enter them. However, at some point in the island’s geologic past, the island was either uplifted 50 feet, or the sea level was 50 feet higher. This left four caves that are deep enough for a cricket to evolve into a species found nowhere else on the planet.
The Farallon Cricket (Farallonophilus cavernicolus) was first described by David C. Rentz in 1972. It is a member of the camel or cave cricket family (Rhaphidophoridae), which is quite diverse in California. Species in this group are wingless and have a brownish, humpbacked appearance with large hindlegs and long antennae. The Farallon Cave Cricket is no exception. However, several anatomical features are sufficiently distinct from other members of the camel cricket family to warrant it a unique genus. Behaviorally, the Farallon Cave Cricket frequently gathers together in small to large groups that can number up to 100 individuals. When they feel threatened, as when a bright light is held up to them, they may drop off the cave wall or ceiling to the floor below. They require moist areas and darkness. Little is known about their natural diet, but they will eat oats in captivity; it is thought that they may forage on organic material brought into the caves by nesting seabirds.
|Farallon Cave Cricket. November 12, 2011.|
|Spelunking crew exploring Rabbit Cave.|
|Dan Grout recording cricket data.|
|The approach to Spooky Cave. Aren't you scared?|
|Spooky Cave's interior isn't too spooky|
|Corm Blind Hill Cave|
|Dan Grout preparing to enter Cricket Cave|
|Cricket Cave's initial chamber narrowing down.|
|Interesting cave wall patterns|
|Cricket congregation showing different sizes|
|Nice stalactite formation|
|Mushroom stalactites growing off the walls|
Although it seems the majority of Farallon Cave Crickets live in these large caves, they can also be found in smaller crevices. During the night of November 18, while watching Cassin's Auklets and Arboreal Salamanders wander about, we saw ~150 crickets in and around the small crevices near "The Gap," an area on the northwest side of the island. Perhaps these small crevices are used as refuges during dispersal events.
|A small crevice that held several crickets|
Although we didn't find the Lost World Cave, this spelunking expedition taught us a bit more than we knew before about the Farallon Cricket's behavior and demography.