Just back from a collecting trip in south-central WA, collecting Speleonychia harvestmen from lava tubes west of Trout Lake, near Mt Adams. The field crew included MS student Allan Cabrero and PhD student Shahan Derkarabetian. We were also assisted by local grotto members Ahrlin Bauman & Garry Petrie – thanks Ahrlin & Garry for taking the time to help us out!!
Allan is conducting a landscape genomics project on Speleonychia, attempting to understand how subterranean features (e.g., lava tube connectedness, age, etc) impact patterns of gene exchange in this narrowly-endemic, cave-obligate species. We were able to find Speleonychia in most tubes, but they seem to exist at low densities, and are certainly microhabitat specific, even within tubes.
We also encountered many other specialized lava tube dwellers, including ice-crawlers, troglomorphic diplurans, and cave spiders. The caving was sometimes painful (especially the “cheese grater”), but really rewarding!