Caves: the reign of absolute darkness and silence, broken only by the sounds of water dripping and trickling.


Not only darkness and silence: a multitude of colourless, blind organisms, from tiny crustaceans and insects to the mythical proteus (olm), live in darkness.


Karstism is not a rare or curious phenomenon: in Italy, 27% of the territory is made up of karstifiable rocks, and there are more than 33,000 registered caves.


Evolution has transformed every karstic massif into a unique, unrepeatable world, home to many endemic species (species which do not exist anywhere else on Earth).

The very presence of endemic species is one of the criteria which the Habitat Directive of the European Community applies when choosing natural areas which it is our duty to safeguard.


This volume is a guide to the world of caves and their inhabitants. It aims at making accessible to all the most important aspects of one branch of scientific knowledge, until recently only to be found in specialized publications.


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