18 m (60 ft.)
5 m (15 ft.)
William R. Elliott
Dynamite Cave is short but roomy, and has the largest colony of daddy
longlegs harvestmen in the area. Watch out for buzzards!
The cave has one room about 2 to 3
m high, 5 m wide, and 15 m long. A second, small entrance can be seen at
the far end of the room. There are some formations and the floor is dry,
Dynamite Cave is often visited by tour
groups because it has a lot of watchable wildlife for such a short cave.
In the summer, the elliptical entrance sink contains a colony of thousands
of daddy longlegs harvestmen, Leiobunum townsendii. These creatures
are harmless and are not spiders but opilionids, or harvestmen, an eight-legged
arachnid Order without poison glands, a one-piece body instead of a distinct
abdomen, two eyes instead of the spider's six to eight eyes, and different
mating structures. Daddy longlegs are social and bob up and down when alarmed.
You may smell a faint, sweet odor, which is secreted by glands on the side
of the body; this could be an alarm pheromone or a repellent against predators.
This species exits caves after sunset, is a scavenger, and has a mass die-off
in the winter but comes back in full force every spring.
Occasionally one can see black vultures
in and around this cave. Vulture chicks make scary hissing sounds and mother
buzzards get upset with intruders and try to vomit on them. Please leave
if vultures are present. Vultures are ecologically important and are protected
Dynamite Cave is a good place to see
the red, ant-like Rhadine howdeni beetles, who rapidly run over
the soil looking for cricket eggs or nymphs to eat. Look under large rocks
and off to the sides of the room. This species has eyes, but other Rhadine
species in the Balcones Fault Zone caves are eyeless. There are many Cicurina
spiders, which are the white-to-cream-colored hunting spiders patrolling
the floor. A gopher snake has been seen on a ledge.
The cave is part of a baseline ecology
study at the park. This cave illustrates that even small caves have ecological
diversity and value.