- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 18, 2006

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — In the caves of Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks, researchers have found 27 species of spiders, centipedes and other creatures that are unknown in science.

Some have startling forms, such as the daddy longlegs with jaws bigger than the rest of its body. Others are completely white and eyeless, perfectly suited to the darkness inside caves.

“Many of these species don’t occur anywhere else,” said biologist Jean Krejca, a Texas-based consultant working with the National Park Service. “This is definitely a big deal.”

Park officials say they are surprised and impressed by the results in the three-year field study of 30 caves in Sequoia-Kings Canyon and five caves in Yosemite National Park.

The adjoining Sequoia and Kings Canyon parks, known mainly for giant sequoias, have 238 caves. Among them is the state’s longest cave, running 21 miles.

About a half dozen new cave species had been discovered in the parks over the past few decades, officials said. But park scientists have long suspected a wider variety of life exists in this underground world.

“We thought we might find at least another handful of new species,” said Joel Despain, cave specialist for the parks. “It was amazing to get 27.”

Mr. Despain said the park service might want to consider designating cave wildlife reserves.

Cave animals are important because they are sensitive to changes in the surrounding ecosystem, officials said. If they begin to decline, it may be a sign of changes, such as increasing global temperatures.

Distributed by McClatchy News Service

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