Date of Award
Honors Thesis Number
Burr, Brooks M.
Careful examination of 35 Missouri caves, 95 Illinois caves, 17 Tennessee caves, 2 Indiana caves, and 11 Arkansas caves has shown cave-adapted banded sculpins (Cottus carolinae) to be limited to only two karst areas of Perry County, Missouri. Within these two karst areas, the sculpins are known from only 7 caves, though they may be in a few other caves that are hydrologically connected to these known sites. They were found in large cave streams, in pools and riffles, and on a variety of substrates, from sediment to breakdown. Banded sculpins without features of cave adaptation were found in caves of other areas of Missouri, and in Illinois, Indiana, and Tennessee and are reported from Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia caves as well.
Caves of Perry County provide a unique habitat for sculpins, and also pose a serious threat, as they are located downgradient of the city of Perryville and other smaller communities that are intensively farmed. Specific documented threats include high levels of potassium, ammonia, nitrite + nitrate, and chloride, probably from agricultural fertilizers, organic waste, septic systems, and livestock (Vandike 1985). Underneath Perry County lies the highest concentration of caves in Missouri (about 630 known in the county), and the four largest caves in the state (Unklesbay and Vineyard 1992). The size of these caves and their respective streams is probably a major factor in the limited distribution of these sculpins.