Colo. caverns home to rare species

7:29 AM, Feb 13, 2011   |    comments
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"We're in the zoology department where the collections are kept," said Steinmann.

His days are filled with insects and arachnids that surround him in display cases, but he'll tell you his real work is often done in the field.

"Being underground in the cave environment is where I like to do most of my work," said Steinmann.

In fact, for that past several years, David has been working about 200 miles west of Denver, deep underground in the Glenwood Caverns.

"Glenwood Caverns is a great place to explore. There are miles and miles of passageways," said Steinmann.

That's where he made a huge discovery by finding a tiny and rare new species of pseudoscorpion named Cryptograegris Steinmann.

Not even an inch long, it's believed the nearly blind pseudoscorpion eats very little, using venom to kill its prey sent from stingers on its claws. They're far too small to be any harm to humans, but it's believed they have survived in the Colorado cave long before humans were ever around.

"This scorpion has likely adapted to the caves millions of years ago and have been living in Glenwood Caverns for millions of years," said Steinmann.

A tour guide actually spotted the scorpion in 2000, then asked David to investigate. That started the long and tedious task of finding a needle in a hay stack. David spent seven hours a day on his hands and knees turning over countless rocks in tight caves in search of a few specimens.

"Going off trail, with helmets and kneepads and crawling through tight spaces and trying to remember the way back to the entrance, "said Steinmann.

It was tough work but it paid off. The tiny scorpion has been named after David and he's been featured in National Geographic and in news articles around the world.

Plus, David believes there are more species to be found back in the Glenwood caves.

"Many people say you have to go to the rain forest to find new species but Colorado caves are full of new and undescribed species," said Steinmann.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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