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Tydixon Ratbat Cave

March 6, 2010

District: Worthy Park

Parish: St Catherine

WGS84 L/L: By request only

JAD2001: By request only

By request only

Altitude: 435m WGS84

Accuracy: +/- 5m horizontal; +/- 10m vertical


Type: Chamber

Accessibility: Scramble/vertigear

Depth: 53m

Length: 225m

Explorers: GSD - 1960

Survey: BRG McGrath/P>

JU Ref: pg 362

JU Map: pg 361

Entrance size: 13m W, 10m H

Entrance aspect: 225

Vegetation in general locale: Forest/sugar cane

Vegetation at entrance: Forest

Geology: White limestone

Bedding: Poor

Jointing: Poor

Speleothems: Stals

Palaeo resources: None seen

Archaeo resources: None seen

Hydrology: Dry

Dark zone: >90%.

Climate: 25 deg C, humid.

Bats: <1,000

Bat guano: Much

Guano mining: Occasional

Guano condition: Compact, fresh/fluff

Visitation: Occasional

Speleothem damage: None

Graffiti: Some

Trash: Little

Ownership: Private (Worthy Park)

Protection: None

Vulnerability: High

Tydixon Ratbat Cave
March 6, 2010
Team: RS Stewart, A Ekparian, D Selvyn
Notes: RS Stewart

Tydixon Ratbat Cave was visited by the JCO in assistance to NEPA and their studies of the bats of the island. Because of the uncertain location, remoteness of the entrance, and lack of local residents, it was particularly difficult to find. A number of hours, spread over three days, were invested in the search before we finally had success, and this would not have happened without the pro bono aid of a long-time resident of the district, Leslie, whom we had the good fortune to stumble across late on the second day.

Arrangements were made to meet Leslie at 7:30 AM on the morning of March 6 at the water tank in the cane land of NW Worthy Park. We arrived at 7:25 to find him waiting on his bicycle, eating an orange. He barely acknowledged our presence until precisely 7:30, at which time he threw the remains of the orange away, announced, "Let's go", and pedalled off along the local cane road, us following in the Discovery. Once we reached a spot where he could safely stow his ride, he climbed into the truck, and from that point on, his previously taciturn attitude changed to friendliness, and all was good.

The track to the cave is fairly long, winding through several cockpits en route. It is not easy to follow on your own, so we are giving the position of the entrance in this report - it will allow one to plot it on a map, but it won't tell you how to get there. It should also be noted that we have spoken with Toby McConnell, of the family that owns Worthy Park, and they will not allow mining for bat guano on any caves on their land, being quite aware of how destructive it can be. Lastly, the odds are quite good that histoplasmosis is present.

The entrance is large, about 13m wide by 10m high, and sits partway up a hill. The middle section is occupied by large boulders, with these continuing onward into the cave for the entire distance we were able to cover. At first, they are relatively clean and easy to scramble up, but this soon gives way to coatings of guano that make travel very dicey. Because of this, we pulled the plug after about 100m at the top of steep slope that would be impossible to ascend on the way out without the use of a rope, which we had neglected to bring.

The passage is high enough that it was not possible to visually determine the aproximate number of bats, but the chattering and amount of guano present suggests that there are at least several thousand, and perhaps as many as ten thousand. No sprouting fruit was seen, so if there are Artibeus, there are not many. Foraging opportunities outside the site are generally good, with true forest on the hills, and good vegetative cover in the cockpits. To speculate, the roost is made up of Pteronotus (parnellii and/or macleayii and quadridens), Glossophaga and/or Monophyllus, and Moormoops.

P. americana (roaches) are present in moderate numbers, no doubt due to the history of guano mining at the site. Small, reddish mites were seen in large numbers on fresh/fluff guano. Tineid moths are also common on the fresh/fluff. The cave spider G. cavernicola is common. Interestingly, cave crickets are seen only in very low numbers, although an amblypygid Phrynus, which is a predator of crickets, was seen. Fungus gnats were present in large numbers, with this responsible for reducing the time we spent in the cave.

Capture and release of bats will be difficult at this site because of the entrance morphology, but should perhaps be attempted anyway. Species make-up could be interesting because of the good foraging opportunities outside of the cave. A return to look at the invertebrate component in more detail should take place, with masks to prevent the inhalation of gnats - the site is not all that far from Swansea, which was found to contain the Onychophoran Speleoperipatus speleus.

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