Active projects

Protection of subterranean fauna and the cave type localities through The Cave Type Localities Atlas of Croatian Fauna – Volume IV

The caves called loci typici or type localities are extremely important as they constitute caves in which a new animal taxon was originally found and described according to the samples found. Research of cave type localities is long-lasting project of the Croatian Biospeleological Society which started in 2000.

There are currently 331 cave type localities in Croatia, with altogether 520 taxa described from them. The number of cave type localities is continuously increasing by the scientific work of CBSS members as well as by the scientific contribution of colleagues and experts from all over Europe.

The most important results of the project The Cave Type Localities Atlas of Croatian Fauna are:

  • “Catalogue of Cave Type Localities of Croatian Fauna”, published as a special issue (supplement) of the scientific journal Natura Croatica in 2006. The Catalogue features a first integrated list of all cave type localities in the territory of Croatia (206 cave type localities), including all taxa described from them (333 taxa).
  • “Cave Type Localities Atlas of Croatian Fauna, Volume 1” brings additional data on type localities published in the Catalogue, and also gives an additional outline of all taxa described from caves and karstic springs and wells (considered to be speleological objects due to their morphology, but excluded from the Catalogue) in the territory of Croatia. Volume 1 was published in 2010 and there are presented 102 type localities with 133 taxa.
  • “Cave Type Localities Atlas of Croatian Fauna, Volume 2” was published in 2013 in Croatian and English. Volume 2 describes in detail 88 caves with their 140 type species.
  • “Cave Type Localities Atlas of Croatian Fauna, Volume 3” was published in 2022 in Croatian and English. Volume 3 describes in detail 70 caves with their 116 attributing taxa.

CBSS is currently collecting the material for Volume 4 of the Cave Type Localities Atlas of Croatian Fauna. Field work includes finding the geographic location of type locality, photographing the entrance and panoramic view of the cave, collecting and photographing the type species, and drawing and/or modifying cave maps and sketches.

Biospeleological research, Plitvice Lakes National Park

Golubnjača u kanjonu Korane (foto: H. Cvitanović)

By the end of 2020, 114 caves and pits have been documented in the wider area of Plitvice Lakes National Park. This number is not even close to final, given that no systematic speleological research has ever been conducted in the Park. As is the case with speleological research, systematic biospeleological research was also absent.

Despite the modest research, there are four type localities in the Park area, where five taxa new to science were found and described: Machaerites udrzali from Rodića špilja, Neobisium speluncarium from Šupljara, Niphargus rucneri from Izvor u Glibovitoj dragi, and Astagobius angustatus driolli and Attemisia likana from Ledenica u Čudinoj uvali.

As part of the ecological network Natura 2000, within the Park there are four caves important for the preservation of the habitat type Caves not open to the public (8310): Rodića špilja, Šupljara, Ledenica u Čudinoj uvali and Modra špilja. Barićeve špilje which is also managed by the Public Institution should be added to that list.

In 2021, the Croatian Biospeleological Society started the four-year project “Biospeleological research” in the Plitvice Lakes National Park. During the project, it is planned to investigate the very poorly known subterranean fauna that inhabits the Park area.

The project goals are:

  • undertake biospeleological research in a minimum of 90 caves and pits
  • make a complete list of invertebrate fauna from caves and pits, with a list of endemic and new species for the Park and for science
  • make a biogeographical and ecological analysis of the fauna
  • make a list of the richest areas or caves/pits
  • determine the zero state of the visited underground habitats
  • determine existing habitat types for each investigated locality
  • create extensive photo documentation (at least five photos for 60% of established troglobites and at least 10 photos of each cave/pit)
  • make a total of 1 hour of video material including at least 25 taxa
  • make guidelines for education and presentation, guidelines for further research, and if necessary, active protection measures

Exploration of cave fauna in the Rakovica Municipality

Na ulazu u Gornju Baraćevu špilju (foto: H. Cvitanović)

In 2020 and in cooperation with the Public Institution Barać Caves – Protected Areas Management In the Municipality of Rakovica, CBSS started biospeleological exploration in the Rakovica Municipality. So far, we have explored eight caves and pits, two of which are within the significant landscape of Baraćeve špilje (Gornja Baraćeva špilja and Donja Baraćeva špilja caves), and two caves (Božićeva špilja and Dumenčića špilja caves) belong to the ecological network Natura 2000. Other explored caves and pits are: Velesova špilja, Jama pod Guvnom, Kunina špilja and cave system Ponorac-Jovina. In all caves and pits, in addition to the inventory of subterranean fauna, we have measured microclimatic conditions, photographed cave entrances and interiors, and collected, identified, and photographed cave fauna. Also, in Gornja Baraćeva špilja cave, we systematically monitor the subterranean fauna for the third year.

Gornja Baraćeva špilja cave is a touristic cave, and the cave fauna has already been researched. Regardless, with our research during the last two years, we have found previously unrecorded species. Before 2020, 33 taxa of subterranean animals were known in Gornja Baraćeva špilja cave and that number was increased to 46, which indicates the importance of systematic biospeleological research. In addition to an increased number of species, the beetle Machaerites pavleki was recorded, the first species record after 13 years when it was discovered and described for science.

Field research of freshwater snails on the Mljet island

Kerkia sp. (foto: .J. Grego)

During systematic biospeleological research of caves and pits in the Mljet National Park by the Croatian Biospeleological Society, the shels of snail family Hydrobiidae were discovered. A very little data on freshwater subterranean gastropods of the Adriatic islands make this discovery extremely interesting. For the island of Mljet, these data do not exist at all. For those reasons, field research and later taxonomic determination of underground and surface freshwater snails will contribute to the biodiversity of the Mljet island.

Biospeleological exploration of caves in the significant landscape Baraćeve špilje

Sakupljanje faune u špilji (foto: H. Cvitanović)

In 2022, we started cooperation with Hrvatska Elektroprivreda (HEP) on the project ” Biospeleological exploration of caves in the significant landscape Baraćeve špilje”. In the area, in addition to the Baraćeve špilje caves, eight more caves are recorded. The goal of this project is to explore subterranean fauna in four biologically unexplored caves: Špilja na Baraćevoj brini, Suvaja, Špilja s lijepim ulazom and Špilja u suhoj dolini. In those localities, we will make an inventory of the subterranean fauna, measure microclimatic parameters, and photograph the interior of the caves and cave entrances. We will determine species for the collected material and statistically process the results. After the research is completed, and in cooperation with the Barać Cave Public Institution, a lecture will be organized on the results of the project in order to raise general public awareness of the importance and value of preserving the natural state of the underground habitats and associated fauna.

The service of performing field work for the TTP Evolution in the Dark project

How organisms adapt to the environment and generate novel phenotypes are fundamental questions in biology. For this reason, the project Evolution in the Dark was started in 2019 at the Ruđer Bošković Institute. Objective of the project is to establish an independent research group and lab to explore the effect of the environment and investigate the molecular origin of a major evolutionary adaptation.

For the research, the group has animal facilities for maintenance and breeding of research organisms adapted to caves: teleost fish Astyanax mexicanus and various subterranean invertebrates such as cave planaria, cave mollusks and cave arthropods, alongside with their surface relatives.

From the begining of the project, CBSS is hired as an expert associate for determination of distribution data of target cave species, planing and performing field work, and habitat characterization for target species.

The project lasts until May 2024.

Scientific monograph “Terrestrial and aquatic cave fauna of Crnopac”

The Crnopac massive is located in the southeastern part of Velebit Mt. It is one of the most important speleological areas of Croatia with over 250 recorded caves. The most significant are: Crnopac cave system as the longest speleological system in the Dinarides, with more than 56 km of channels currently explored, and Munižaba whose canale volumes make it the largest cave in Croatia. The cave fauna of Crnopac is also very significant and diverse, but its importance is underestimated in relation to the speleological research.

Despite the previously unsystematic and uncontinuous biospeleological research in this area, over 40 species of real cave animals (troglobionts) have been recorded, of which 5 are endemic to Crnopac. The most diverse group of terrestrial animals are beetles (Coleoptera), with 9 troglobiotic species. Recent research has also identified new species from the groups of isopods (Isopoda) and springtails (Collembola). From the aquatic fauna in the aquatic cave habitats of Crnopac, we would single out the endemic species of snails Belgrandiella krupensis and Hadziella sketi, as well as a diverse fauna of aquatic crustaceans.

For this monograph, we have tried to collect all the literature data and give a complete overview of the aquatic and terrestrial cave fauna of Crnopac.

Visitors’ Centre Krasno, creating a detailed scenario of the visitors’ centre

Since 2016, we are participating in the project „Visitors’ Centre Krasno, creating a detailed scenario of the visitors’ centre” in the biospeleological part. The aim of this part of the centre is to present rich subterranean fauna od National park Northern Velebit. The fauna of this area is characterised by highly endemic and specialized species. In addition, the basic features of subterranean animals are shown and explained. The animals of Lukina jama, the deepest cave of Croatia, are specially presented and there is also a short overview of biospeleological research of northern Velebit. Available literature, as well as unpublished data of the Croatian Biospeleological Society, were used for the preparation of the scenario.

The Visitors’ Centre is opened to visitors in 2017 under the name “Velebit House” , but some biospeleological parts in the centre are still under construction.