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Dolloff Cave Spider
Meta dolloff
Text and photos by Mark Oatney

Status
A federally-listed Species of Concern. Overall population probably much smaller than even the Endangered Ohlone Tiger Beetle. Population size has decreased over the past decade.

Habitat
Caves in the Empire Cave System that run through much of UCSC and into Grey Whale Ranch State Park. Builds webs at the ceiling of the caves near entrances.

Prey
Hunts cave fauna, including the Cave Moth Triphosa haesitata and Harvestman Leiobunum exilipes.


Threats

• Uncontrolled access
Use by vandals and partiers is the greatest single threat to Meta dolloff. Bonfires, smoke poisoning, pollution, vandalism of cave structures, and graffiti have wreaked havoc on the cave’s fauna. The cave has been gated before, but almost immediately the gates were broken into. The ladder later installed by the University into the cave has made access to the caves easier for the people most threatening to this endangered species.

• Water Runoff
UCSC dumps storm runoff directly into its cave system
, a practice which is illegal in most states. UCSC has no storm drains— all runoff from the ever-increasing cleared and developed land on campus runs either down or through the landscape on which it is built. This dramatically-increased water flow may affect the fauna of the cave floors and available food supplies of Meta dolloff. This runoff water is also heavily polluted with aromatic hydrocarbons which further poison the cave food web.


 

Meta dolloff and captured Harvestman Leiobunum exilipes

Conservation
Campus growth needs to come to a halt until runoff issues have been properly addressed.
Access by vandals needs to be curtailed. Law enforcement against activities which threaten the Meta dolloff are inadequate and need to become a priority for both campus and park law enforcement agencies.

For more information please visit: www.caves.org/grotto/sfbc/projects/empire.html