1 any large dark enclosed space; "his eyes were dark caverns"
2 a large cave or a large chamber in a cave v : hollow out as if making a cavern [syn: cavern out]
- Rhymes: -ævə(r)n
- Swedish: jordkula
A cave is a natural underground void large enough for a human to enter. Some people suggest that the term 'cave' should only apply to cavities that have some part that does not receive daylight; however, in popular usage, the term includes smaller spaces like sea caves, rock shelters, and grottos.
Speleology is the science of exploration and study of all aspects of caves. Exploring a cave for recreation or science may be called "caving", "potholing", or occasionally (only in Canada and the United States), "spelunking".
Types and formationCaves are formed by geologic processes. These may involve a combination of chemical processes, erosion from water, tectonic forces, microorganisms, pressure, and atmospheric influences. Most caves are formed in limestone by dissolution.
- Some caves are formed at the same time as the surrounding rock.
These are sometimes called primary
- Lava tubes are formed through volcanic activity and are the most common 'primary' caves. The lava flows downhill and the surface cools and solidifies. The hotter lava continues to flow under that crust, and if most of the liquid lava beneath the crust flows out, a hollow tube remains, thus forming a cavity. Examples of such caves can be found on Tenerife, Big Island, and many other places. Kazumura Cave near Hilo is a remarkably long and deep lava tube; it is long.
- Blister caves are also formed through volcanic activity.
- Sea caves are found along coasts around the world. A special case is littoral caves, which are formed by wave action in zones of weakness in sea cliffs. Often these weaknesses are faults, but they may also be dykes or bedding-plane contacts. Some wave-cut caves are now above sea level because of later uplift. Elsewhere, in places such as Thailand's Phang Nga Bay, solutional caves have been flooded by the sea and are now subject to littoral erosion. Sea caves are generally around to in length but may exceed .
- Fracture caves are formed when layers of more soluble minerals, such as gypsum, dissolve out from between layers of less soluble rock. These rocks fracture and collapse in blocks.
- Talus caves are the openings between rocks that have fallen down into a pile, often at the bases of cliffs.
- Anchihaline caves are caves, usually coastal, containing a mixture of freshwater and saline water (usually sea water). They occur in many parts of the world, and often contain highly specialized and endemic faunas.
- "Branchwork caves" resemble surface dentritic stream patterns; they are made up of passages that join downstream as tributaries. Branchwork caves are the most common of cave patterns and are formed near sinkholes where groundwater recharge occurs. Each passage or branch is fed by a separate recharge source and converges into other higher order branches downstream.
- "Angular Network Caves" form from intersecting fissures of carbonate rock that have had fractures widened by chemical erosion. These fractures form high, narrow, straight passages that persist in widespread closed loops.
The deepest known cave (measured from its highest entrance to its lowest point) is Voronya Cave (Abkhazia, Georgia), with a depth of . This was the first cave to be explored to a depth of more than . (The first cave to be descended below was the famous Gouffre Berger in France). The Illyuzia-Mezhonnogo-Snezhnaya cave in Abkhazia, Georgia, () and the Lamprechtsofen Vogelschacht Weg Schacht in Austria () are the current second- and third-deepest caves. This particular record has changed several times in recent years.
The deepest individual pitch (vertical drop) within a cave is in Vrtoglavica Cave in Slovenia, followed by Patkov Gušt at in the Velebit mountain, Croatia.
The largest individual cavern ever discovered is the Sarawak chamber, in the Gunung Mulu National Park (Miri, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia), a sloping, boulder strewn chamber with an area of approximately by and a height of .
Cave ecologyCave-inhabiting animals are often categorized as troglobites (cave-limited species), troglophiles (species that can live their entire lives in caves, but also occur in other environments), trogloxenes (species that use caves, but cannot complete their life cycle wholly in caves) and accidentals (animals not in one of the previous categories). Some authors use separate terminology for aquatic forms (e.g., stygobites, stygophiles, and stygoxenes).
Of these animals, the troglobites are perhaps the most unusual organisms. Troglobitic species often show a number of characteristics, termed troglomorphies, associated with their adaptation to subterranean life. These characteristics may include a loss of pigment (often resulting in a pale or white coloration), a loss of eyes (or at least of optical functionality), an elongation of appendages, and an enhancement of other senses (such as the ability to sense vibrations in water). Aquatic troglobites (or stygobites), such as the endangered Alabama cave shrimp, live in bodies of water found in caves and get nutrients from detritus washed into their caves and from the feces of bats and other cave inhabitants. Other aquatic troglobites include cave fish, the Olm, and cave salamanders such as the Texas Blind Salamander.
Cave insects such as Oligaphorura (formerly Archaphorura) schoetti are troglophiles, reaching in length. They have extensive distribution and have been studied fairly widely. Most specimens are female but a male specimen was collected from St Cuthberts Swallet in 1969.
Bats, such as the Gray bat and Mexican Free-tailed Bat, are trogloxenes and are often found in caves; they forage outside of the caves. Some species of cave crickets are classified as trogloxenes, because they roost in caves by day and forage above ground at night.
Because of the fragile nature of the cave ecosystem, and the fact that cave regions tend to be isolated from one another, caves harbor a number of endangered species, such as the Tooth cave spider, Liphistiidae Liphistius trapdoor spider, and the Gray bat.
Caves are visited by many surface-living animals, including humans. These are usually relatively short-lived incursions, due to the lack of light and sustenance.
Archaeological and social importanceThroughout history, primitive peoples have made use of caves for shelter, burial, or as religious sites. Since items placed in caves are protected from the climate and scavenging animals, this means caves are an archaeological treasure house for learning about these people. Cave paintings are of particular interest. One example is the Great Cave of Niah, in Malaysia, which contains evidence of human habitation dating back 40,000 years.
Caves are also important for geological research because they can reveal details of past climatic conditions in speleothems and sedimentary rock layers.
Caves are frequently used today as sites for recreation. Caving, for example, is the popular sport of cave exploration. For the less adventurous, a number of the world's prettier and more accessible caves have been converted into show caves, where artificial lighting, floors, and other aids allow the casual visitor to experience the cave with minimal inconvenience. Caves have also been used for BASE jumping and cave diving.
Caves are also used for the preservation or aging of wine and cheese. The constant, slightly chilly temperature and high humidity that most caves possess makes them ideal for such uses.
- Australian Speleological Federation (ASF), AU
- British Caving Association (BCA), UK
- Classification of Caves A list of cave types with links to further information
- Journal of Cave and Karst Studies
- National Speleological Society (NSS), US
- International Union of Speleology (UIS).
- Speleological Abstract (SA/BBS) An annual review of the world's speleological literature.
- The Virtual Cave Photographs of many types of caves.
- cave-biology.org Cave biology (biospeleology) in India.
cavern in Arabic: كهف
cavern in Guarani: Itakua
cavern in Bulgarian: Пещера
cavern in Catalan: Cova
cavern in Czech: Jeskyně
cavern in Welsh: Ogof
cavern in Danish: Hule
cavern in German: Höhle
cavern in Estonian: Koobas
cavern in Modern Greek (1453-): Σπήλαιο
cavern in Spanish: Cueva
cavern in Esperanto: Kaverno
cavern in Basque: Leize
cavern in Persian: غار
cavern in French: Grotte
cavern in Galician: Cova
cavern in Korean: 동굴
cavern in Croatian: Špilja
cavern in Indonesian: Gua
cavern in Inuktitut: ᐃᓗ/ilu
cavern in Italian: Grotta
cavern in Hebrew: מערה
cavern in Georgian: მღვიმე
cavern in Latin: Spelunca
cavern in Latvian: Ala
cavern in Lithuanian: Urvas
cavern in Limburgan: Grot
cavern in Hungarian: Barlang
cavern in Macedonian: Пештера
cavern in Malay (macrolanguage): Gua
cavern in Dutch: Grot
cavern in Japanese: 洞窟
cavern in Norwegian: Grotte
cavern in Polish: Jaskinia
cavern in Portuguese: Caverna
cavern in Romanian: Peşteră
cavern in Quechua: Mach'ay
cavern in Russian: Пещера
cavern in Simple English: Cave
cavern in Slovak: Jaskyňa
cavern in Slovenian: Jama
cavern in Serbian: Пећина
cavern in Finnish: Luola
cavern in Swedish: Grotta
cavern in Telugu: గుహ
cavern in Vietnamese: Hang
cavern in Ukrainian: Печери
cavern in Yiddish: הייל
cavern in Contenese: 山窿
cavern in Chinese: 洞穴