These articles were published in the Spectacular Slovakia travel guide, published annually by The Slovak Spectator since 1996. The latest editions can be obtained from our online shop.

Creepy-Crawly Creatures

Tour a cave in the Slovak Karst, and you're not likely to see many signs of life beyond a few bats fluttering about and the piles of guano they leave behind. But these caves, like most of the world's cave systems, squirm with life, especially in the deepest areas not open to the public.

The waters that run through the caves' springs are a veritable primordial ooze, housing dozens of species of water-borne worms as well as molluscs and crustaceans.

On dry ground, too, creepy-crawly creatures flourish. Earthworms, mites, various spiders, and three different kinds of beetle scramble about, often close to the banks of underground streams and guano sediments. If you spot what looks like a scorpion, don't be alarmed. It's probably just a harmless spider of the false-scorpion (pseudoscorpionidea) species. Equally harmless - and startling - land crustaceans troll about close to streams, in search of sustenance.

Then there's the most visible form of underground life, apart from tourists of the homo sapiens variety: bats. No fewer than 14 species of bats thrive here. You see them flying about gracefully through the caves, the scourge of insects. And their guano piles have in many places created ancient sediment formations - which, to be blunt, are no rival for stalactites and stalagmites in terms of beauty.

- Tom Philpott

These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2003.

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