ARPHA Conference Abstracts : Conference Abstract
Conference Abstract
Culturing cave mollusks in the laboratory: strategies and troubleshooting
expand article infoMarko Lukić, Magdalena Grgić, Tin Rožman§, Nikolina Kuharić§, Lada Jovović, Robert Weck|, Helena Bilandžija
‡ Ruđer Bošković Institute, Zagreb, Croatia
§ Croatian Biospeleological Society, Zagreb, Croatia
| Southwestern Illinois College, Belleville, United States of America
Open Access


Objective obstacles such as high water levels that prevent access to caves at certain times of the year or the need to use complex tools and skills such as cave diving make biological research in caves extremely complex and occasionally dangerous. Moreover, to study physiological and behavioral adaptations of cave animals, they must be kept under controlled laboratory conditions. For this reason, we have established an animal facility in our laboratory. The available literature on invertebrate setup, operation, and care was sparse and unsuitable for the species we were studying. Fortunately, many cave biologists provided us with advice and support during the initial phase. Here we present our experiences to provide some guidelines for other researchers undertaking similar efforts. Among other animal groups, we are culturing several morphotypes of the cave snail Physella sp. and two cave and one surface species pair of bivalves: Congeria spp. and Dreissena polymorpha. We discuss good and bad practices in mollusk care - housing, water treatment, different types of food, and small aquarium design. Special attention is given to problems we have encountered with our colonies and changes we have made to address these problems, both successful and unsuccessful. We also address the general protocols required for keeping multiple species in a single facility, including procedures for decontamination of equipment and tools, and quarantine.


Dreissenids, cave bivalve, Physidae, stygobiotic snails, invertebrate laboratory colonies, experimental animals, animal care

Presenting author

Marko Lukić

Presented at

The 25th Conference on Subterranean Biology

Funding program

Tenure Track Pilot Programme, Project TTP-2018-07-9675 Evodark

Grant title

Evolution in the dark