Monday, April 30, 2007

"Will You Walk Into My Parlor?"

Sorry for such a late post. I don’t have any good excuses; I’ve just been slacking. A few weeks ago, Greg (who also suggested the Siaga Antelope) suggested an EUT for me1. I found out that its story is unavoidably attached to another Endangered Ugly Thing.
Image from Fish and Wildlife Service
Image from Fish and Wildlife Service

This is the suggested animal, the Kauai Cave Amphipod (Spelaeorchestia koloana). It’s a blind, terrestrial, shrimp-like crustacean that inhabits the small caves formed by gas escaping through the Hawaiian lava2. It lives happily on the detritus to be found in those caves. The Kauai Cave Wolf Spider (Adelocosa anops) inhabits the same habitat, except it lives happily on the Cave Amphipods to be found there. They’re only found in about five different locations on the island of Kauai, most of which are on private property.

Everyone seems to find it strange that the government would protect both a predator and its main prey item. Someone even did a cartoon on it, and, quite frankly, I don’t often see people trying to anthropomorphize blind amphipods. Or amphipods of any kind.

Look, it’s not that strange. The Kauai Cave Amphipod is not endangered because the Kauai Cave Wolf Spider eats it. The amphipod has had millions of years to evolve defenses against the spider. They’re both endangered because of Hawaii’s3 rapid development. Y’know, paving over the lava, agriculture, and heavy use of insecticides for invasive species control (and other less noble goals). Protection is just starting, as they only got added to the list in 2003, though they’ve been working on restoring the caves since 1995.

1Please, please, please keep sending in those suggestions. It makes life so much easier for me.
2Yes, I know I just wrote about a Hawaiian EUT. See above footnote.
3I’m trying to decide if “Hawai’i’s” would look weird. Yeah it does.

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