Squirrel Chimney Cave Shrimp

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Squirrel Chimney Cave Shrimp

Palaemonetes cummingi

ListedJune 21, 1990
DescriptionTransparent shrimp with reduced eyes.
HabitatFlooded caves.
FoodPlant matter, insects, algae.
ReproductionFemales probably lay about 16-24 eggs.
ThreatsWater pollution.


Squirrel Chimney cave shrimp (Palaemonetes cummingi ) is transparent and measures about 1.2 in (3 cm) in length. The body and eyes are without pigment, and the eyes are smaller than surface-dwelling species. This species is also known by the common name Florida cave shrimp.


Little is known of the reproductive cycle or diet of this species, although it is assumed to be similar to that of other cave-dwelling shrimp. The endangered Kentucky cave shrimp feeds on plant detritus, insects, algae, and fungi. It breeds year-round, with females producing 16-24 eggs.


This cave shrimp inhabits a single sinkhole and flooded cave system near Gainesville, Florida. The 100-ft-deep (30.5-m-deep) system supports one of the richest cave invertebrate faunas in the United States, including McLane's cave crayfish (Troglocambarus maclanei, ), the light-fleeing crayfish (Procambarus lucifugus ), the pallid cave crayfish (Procambarus pallidus ), and Hobbs' cave amphipod (Crangonyx hobbsi ).


Squirrel Chimney cave shrimp was described in 1954, after its discovery in Squirrel Chimney, a sinkhole in Alachua County, Florida, on the outskirts of Gainesville.

This cave shrimp has not been found in any other cave system. No population estimates are available.


Because of the limited range of Squirrel Chimney cave shrimp and the fragile nature of its habitat, any change in the sinkhole or the underlying aquifer could be devastating to the species and perhaps lead to its extinction.

The surrounding land consists of oak hammock and pine plantation. The area, situated on the outskirts of Gainesville, is undergoing residential development. The current owners have indicated a willingness to offer the Nature Conservancy the first option on the land surrounding the sinkhole if they decide to sell. However, this will not prevent the development of nearby areas. The increased erosion and pollution from septic tanks, pesticides, and herbicides resulting from such development could threaten the fragile cave fauna.

Construction of a proposed business/industrial park near the cave could pose a danger to this shrimp and other rare cave species. Alachua County has approved the development at a site about 6 mi (9.7 km) from Squirrel Chimney. Some scientists fear that the system of caves and underground streams that make up the aquifer could become contaminated by industrial pollution. The county development plan is awaiting state approval. Meanwhile, a local citizen's group has filed a complaint with the county government, the first step in trying to block the development in the courts.

Conservation and Recovery

In 1983 Squirrel Chimney was proposed for recognition as a National Natural Landmark. The National Park Service has not yet taken action on this proposal.


U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Regional Office, Division of Endangered Species
1875 Century Blvd., Suite 200
Atlanta, Georgia 30345
(404) 679-4000

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Jacksonville Field Office
3100 University Blvd. South, Suite 120
Jacksonville, Florida 32216
(904) 791-2580


Chace, F. A., Jr. 1954. "Two New Subterranean Shrimp (Decapoda: Caridea) from Florida and the West Indies, with a Revised Key to the American Species." Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences 44: 318-324.

Mohr, C. E., and T. L. Poulson. 1966. Life of the Cave. McGraw-Hill, New York.