Cave Biology

Anchialine (from Greek meaning "near the sea") refers to coastal caves formed in limestone or volcanic rock that are flooded with seawater. They include the longest submerged caves on Earth. These caves are inhabited by a diverse array of previously unknown species from a number of new higher taxa. While some are primitive "living fossils", others are closely related to deep sea species. Most lack eyes and pigment, owing to their existence in the perpetual darkness of underwater caves. While some closely related species are found in caves on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, others, previously known exclusively from caves in the Atlantic Ocean, recently have been discovered in Western Australia.

Our group has ongoing research activities in the Bahamas, Bermuda, Yucatan Peninsula, the Canary Islands, among other international locations. To study the ecosystems and environments in underwater caves, advanced technical cave diving procedures are commonly required.

Research Products

(*denotes TAMUG students)

Iliffe, TM, Wilkens, H, Parzefall, J, Williams, D, 1984, Marine lava cave fauna: Composition, biogeography and origins. Science, 225, 309-311.

Iliffe, TM, Hart, CW Jr., Manning, RB, 1983, Biogeography and the caves of Bermuda. Nature, 302:141-142.

*Gonzalez, B, Iliffe, TM, Macalady, JL, Schaperdoth, I, Kakuk, B, 2011, Microbial hotspots in anchialine blue holes: initial discoveries from the Bahamas. Hydrobiologia 677(1), 149-156.

Stemme, T, Iliffe, TM, Bicker, G, 2015, Olfactory pathway in Xibalbanus tulumensis: remipedian hemiellipsoid body as homologue of hexapod mushroom body. Cell and Tissue Research, 363 (3), 635-648.

Alvarez, F, Iliffe, TM, Benitez, S, *Brankovits, D, Villalobos, JL, 2015, New records of anchialine fauna from the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Check List 11 (1), 1505.


Click here or visit for more information.

For more information, contact:

Thomas M. Iliffe

Thomas M. Iliffe, PhD

+1 (409) 740-4454
+1 (409) 740-5001 Fax

Bld# 3029, Office 251