Guano – An invertebrate’s smorgasbord

Insect life can provide an important indication of the health of caves. Interest in the insects living in the guano (bat poo) in Bat Cave has flourished since the 1960s. The installation of cameras in Bat Cave in the mid-1990s provided the first opportunity for visitors to observe this insect life as well. Research into the insects was prompted by apparent declines in insect life made by the site staff in 1999.

Scientific investigation found that the diversity of insects living in the guano matched those recorded in the 1960s, but accounted for the observed decline by showing that the population sizes of the different insect species change seasonally. This finding prompted further work into the insect life of Bat Cave. To date, 38 species of insects are known from the guano piles in Bat Cave. They type of insects that live in the cave related to the acidity, moisture and rates of guano accumulation.

Interest in bat guano actually has a long history at Naracoorte. The early European settlers mined guano at the Caves for fertiliser. The history and effects of guano mining on have also been a focus of research.

Further reading

Bellati, J. 2001. Guanophilic invertebrate diversity and seasonality in Bat Cave at Naracoorte, South Australia. Department of Applied and Molecular Ecology, Adelaide. University of Adelaide, 1 – 81.

Bellati, J., Austin, A.D. and Stevens, N.B., 2003. Arthropod diversity at Bat Cave, Naracoorte Caves World Heritage Area, South Australia. Records of the South Australian Museum Monograph Series7, 257 – 265.

Hamilton-Smith, E., 1967. The Arthropoda of Australian Caves. Australian Journal of Entomology

Hamilton-Smith, E. 1972. The bat population of the Naracoorte Caves area. Proceedings of the Eighth Biennial Conference, Australian Speleological Federation, 66–75. Australian Speleological Federation, Hobart.

Hamilton-Smith, E. 1998. Much ado about very little: bat (Miniopterus schreibersii) guano mining at Naracoorte, South Australia. Australian Zoologist30, 367 – 391.

Hamilton-Smith, E., 2000. Report on current changes in biodiversity of the Bat Cave, Naracoorte World Heritage Area. Internal report for the Department of Environment and Heritage, South Australia.

Moulds, T.A., 2003. Arthropod ecology of Bat Cave, Naracoorte, South Australia. Proceedings of the 24th Biennial Conference of the Australian Speleological Federation, Bunbury, Western Australia, Australian Speleological Federation.

Moulds, T.A., 2006. The seasonality, diversity and ecology of cavernicolous guano dependent arthropod ecosystems in southern Australia. PhD Thesis. The University of Adelaide.

Image gallery