BIO 203

The Land of Oz

Welcome to the Land of Oz! Throughout this page we will be discussing the specific habitat occupied by the Ozark cavefish.

The Ozark cavefish primarily lives in fresh water, cave environments. This fish lives its entire life in concealed waters, meaning that it lives in the bottommost part of the springs within these caves. Typically, the Ozark cavefish population occupies underwater channels within an aquifer inside the cave (Oklahoma Department of Conservation (ODOWC), 2011). Organisms that occupy this subterranean lifestyle are called troglobites (Johnston, 2011). These fish are extremely well-adapted to underwater life in the dark (MDC, 2014). The Ozark cavefish is so incredibly specialized to its environment that the water it lives in must have a temperature between 12.8 and 15.6˚C (Johnston, 2014) in order for the fish to sustain life. The fresh water that inhabits these locations comes from the ground and surges into the cave cavity (Johnston, 2014). It is relatively difficult to examine an Ozark cavefish in its natural habitat, because of the fact that it lives in the bottommost part of the body of water within the cave. Most of the time, the only way for people to visibly see an Ozark cavefish is to wait until the fish moves into a visible stream or spring within a cave, rather than the hidden aquifers they typically reside in. Because of the limited access to the caves and its specialized environment, there are not many organisms that occupy the same habitat as the Ozark cavefish (Johnston, 2014). The springs, caves and streams that these fish live in, have to contain at least one of two required materials in order for the fish to dwell in those areas. These two required materials include limestone and/or dolomite, typically found embedded in the cave foundation. The Ozark cavefish does not require both limestone and dolomite at the same time in order to maintain their lifestyle. If one of the two requirements are present, the Ozark cavefish is able to reside there comfortably (MDC, 2014). Specifically, the area that meets the high demand needs of the Ozark cavefish is the Springfield Plateau found in the Ozark Highlands. The Springfield Plateau is found in parts of southwestern Missouri, northwestern Arkansas and northeastern Oklahoma, as shown in the United States map above (MDC, 2014). These three states are the only known locations where the Ozark cavefish has been found (Johnston, 2014).

To learn more about how this organism has evolved specializations for this type of environment, check out the adaptation page!

 <<Classification                           Homepage                                 Adaptation>>