[Home] [Yucatan Cenotes] [Yucatan Fauna] [Satellite Photos] [Contributors] [Site Map]



Yucatan Introduction

  Click here to view the full size image

Cenote Car Wash: Tulum,
Quintana Roo

The Yucatan Peninsula extends northward from Central America and includes the Mexican states of Campeche, Yucatan and Quintana Roo. It is bordered to the west and north by the Gulf of Mexico and to the east by the Caribbean Sea. Northern Yucatan is low and relatively flat with no surface rivers or streams. Rocks along the coast are of Pleistocene and Holocene age, while older Miocene and Eocene deposits are exposed farther inland.

Click here to view the full size image  

Cenote Xlacah: Dzibilchaltun
ruins, Merida, Yucatan

Caves and karst features are common in nearly all parts of the Peninsula. The most notable karst feature is the cenote. Cenote is derived the Mayan word "dzonot" and refers to any subterranean chamber that contains permanent water. While some cenotes are vertical, water-filled shafts, others are caves that contain pools and underwater passageways in their interior.

Cave exploration in the Yucatan may have begun by the Mayans as much as 3,000 years ago. The scarcity of surface water in the Yucatan has necessitated use of cenotes and caves as primary water sources. Indeed, pottery shards, charcoal, torches, and artwork can be found in virtually all parts of the caves. Since caves and cenotes were the only source of water, and therefore essential to survival, they played a vital role in the life of the Maya. Caves were used as sources of drinking water, sources of "virgin" water for religious rites, burial and/or sacrificial sites, art galleries, places of refuge, and mines for clay or minerals.

Fortyone stygobitic species have been identified from Yucatan caves including 39 crustaceans and two fish. Most have marine origins and many belong to the same genera as cave species from Cuba and the Bahamas. In order of abundance, the fauna includes 11 species of shrimps, 10 copepods, 6 isopods and 5 amphipods.

Go to Cave Animals of the Yucatan
Go to Yucatan Cenotes


[Home] [Yucatan Cenotes] [Yucatan Fauna] [Satellite Photos] [Contributors] [Site Map]


Please email us your comments and questions. Last modified: