The diversity, complexity, and beauty of nature on our planet is one of the best things about living here (besides all that sweet oxygen). However, even Mother Earth has her off days and, every now and then, something scuttles up from the deep that makes us want to retreat indoors forever.
This year saw a new viral video doing the rounds, one that featured a colossal insect-like creature reportedly unearthed in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky.
In the 15-second clip, we see the monstrous, many-eyed creature turned over and examined by an off-screen explorer. With its dozens of crab-like legs, disturbingly pale hue and slimy sheen, the huge, armored bug is the stuff of nightmares.
The image of the Mammoth Cave mega insect has horrified millions since it first emerged and has raised several questions since. Is the footage of the mega bug real? What exactly is the creature in the clip? And what sort of maniac would pick it up with their bare hands??
Is the Mammoth Cave mega insect real, or a hoax?
It may look legit, but the Mammoth Cave mega insect video is, in fact, a hoax.
(Come on, no-one would touch that thing without gloves).
The big bug seen in the video is no more than an artfully designed puppet, one of many used to make the ‘Rollie Pollie’ creatures seen in the movie Pacific Rim. Whether this news comes as a relief or disappointment to you, Mammoth Cave is still home to a wide array of unique and fascinating critters!
What insects live in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky?
The Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, North America, is home to parts of the longest known cave system on Earth. This sprawling labyrinth of underground chambers and tunnels is so vast that parts of it remain a mystery to this day, though over 640 km of the caves have been explored.
Though the mega insect that shocked the world may not live in the gloomy caverns of Mammoth Cave, plenty of other insects call these dank, subterranean corridors home. These troglobitic (AKA ‘cave-dwelling’) creatures all play a vital role in maintaining the ecosystem of the caves, and many have special adaptations to help them survive in this seemingly inhospitable environment.
Cave beetles are a classic example of life in Mammoth Cave, and several different species of this insect can be found lurking in the dark, damp recesses. Many of these, such as Ptomaphagus hirtus, are highly adapted for their underground existence. P.hirtus are entirely flightless and, until recently, were considered to be completely blind (a common feature of cave-adapted creatures). However, new research has come to light which reveals that these beetles do, in fact, have a basic vision – though they may only differentiate between light and dark.
Springtails are a type of arthropod (of the class Collembola) and are abundant in mammoth cave. These small, wingless, insect-like bugs are found in caves worldwide, and many species are unable to survive above ground.
Springtails get their name from the specially adapted, tail-like structure that they keep folded beneath their bodies. They use this appendage to leap quickly away from perceived threats and can jump long distances to escape predators.
Cave crickets are considered a vital component of the Mammoth Cave ecosystem, thanks to their role in providing food for other organisms. Dead crickets, cricket eggs and guano (a type of fungus that grows on poop) are all valuable food sources for other invertebrate species in the cave. These are, in turn, consumed by other cave inhabitants (such as bats and fish).
Cave crickets are so critical to the survival of other species in Mammoth Cave that their populations are carefully monitored. This can give experts an early warning of problems with the health of the cave’s ecosystem so appropriate action can be taken to remedy it.
Centipedes and millipedes
The infamous star of the ‘Mammoth Cave mega insect’ video may not exist, but this doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of many-legged creatures underground. Mammoth Cave is home to a couple of species of millipede, which feed on the guano left behind by cave crickets.
What other creatures live in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky?
Bugs and insects aren’t the only organisms living in Mammoth Cave – far from it! The extensive network of tunnels and caverns supports a wide range of mammalian, mollusk, crustacean and fish species, too.
One of Mammoth Cave’s best-known inhabitants is the Eyeless Cave Fish, a group that encompasses a variety of fish species. The aquatic critters have adapted to their lightless environment in an extreme way, losing their ability to grow eye structures altogether! These species have also ceased to produce unnecessary pigmentation, giving them a pale (and slightly creepy) appearance.
Mammoth Cave was once home to large populations of Indiana and Gray bats but, today, only small numbers remain. Both species are currently listed as endangered.
The mega insect of Mammoth Cave, Ky, rocked the internet earlier this year when a video of the supposedly newly-discovered creature surfaced online. The clip certainly looks convincing; however, the enormous, other-worldly bug featured in the video is no more an inhabitant of Mammoth Cave than you are.
The insect in the viral vid us no more than a movie prop, lifted from the set of ‘Pacific Rim’. This will comfort some (and disappoint others) – but there’s still a whole host of creepy crawlies dwelling in the depths of Mammoth Cave.
From troglobitic beetles and crickets to springtails and centipedes, the bug life in Mammoth Cave is both diverse and fascinating.