Lucifuga subterranea

Poey 1858

Lucifuga subterranea
Redrawn by Rhian Kendall from Nalbant (1981)


Lucifuga subterraneus  Poey 1858

Lucifuga teresinarum  Diaz Perez 1988




The status of the type specimens for this species, and for Lucifuga dentata, the second and third described subterranean fishes, is not known with any degree of certainty. The Catalog of Fishes (Eschmeyer, Fricke and van der Laan 2018) says: "Poey specimens: ZMB 6341 (1)" without stating the type status of this specimen. Romero (2007) does not mention ZMB 6341, presumably because he was not aware of it, and suggests that one of either USNM 00001739 (collected by Poey, date unknown) or MNHN A-5234 (collector unknown, date unknown, sent to Valenciennes in Paris probably 1865) is the holotype or in the type series.

The type catalogue of Faloh-Gandarilla et al. 2016, presumably the most reliable source in this matter, says that ZMB 6341 is a single syntype, probably because Poey (1858) did not specifically mention the single type specimen which, if he had done so, would have been the holotype.

This species is the type species by monotypy of the cave restricted genus Lucifuga.


Type locality: Cueva de Cajio, potrero de Torres, dos leguas, (c. 8.5 km), Sur de Guira de Melena, Habana province, Cuba. Other sites from which this species has been collected are given by Eigenmann (1909), Taboada (1974) and Garcia Debras, Gonzalez and Yager (1999) (22o-23oN, 80o-84oW).

Province Municipality Cave Coexistence
Habana Alquizar Cueva del Cafetal "La Concordia"  
    Cueva del cafetal "La Industria" L. dentata
    Cueva del Quintanal  
  Artemisa Cueva en Ashton  
    Cueva de Ashton L. dentata
    Cueva Emilio L. dentata
    Cueva del Baño  
    Cueva Baño II L. dentata
    Cueva Modesta L. dentata
    Cueva de la Lechuza  
    Cueva del Dragón  
    Cueva en Cañas  
    Cavernas en San Isidro  
    Cueva en la Tranquilidad L. dentata
    Cueva en Los Frías L. dentata
    Cueva Hawey  
    Cueva Los Pérez L. dentata
  Guira de Melena Cueva Jaiguán L. dantata
    Cueva Cajío * L. dentata
  Quivican Cueva Juanelo Piedra L. dentata
    Cueva de Luis Piedra L. dentata
    Cueva del Túnel L. dentata

Known distribution of Lucifuga subterranea. * type locailty.


Inhabits anchialine caves.


A general note on the systematics and distribution of the genus Lucifuga

The genus Lucifuga contains six nominal described species:

Nominal species Distribution
subterranea Cuba - southwest
dentata Cuba - west central
gibarensis Cuba
simile Cuba - Matanzas
spelaeotes Bahamas - Grand Bahama Bank
lucayana Bahamas - Little Bahama Bank


Note: The marine species originally described as Lucifuga inopinata Cohen and McCosker 1998 is certainly not in the genus Lucifuga (Hernandez et al. 2020, Peter Rask Moller pers. comm. 2022). It is not discussed further.

Until the studies of Moller et al. (2006) all Bahamian species on both main banks were placed in L. spelaeotes but it was no surpsrise to see that the banks each have their own species. Molecular studies of the Cuban species by Hernandez (2005), Lara et al. (2010), Garcia- Machado et al. (2011) and Hernandez et al. (2016) have considerably altered understanding of the situation in Cuba. These studies strongly suggest that there are at least eight phylogentic groups in Cuba: the nominal species subterranea, dentata, simile and gibarensis, and four currently unnamed taxa. L. gibarensis is sister to unnamed species 4 and both of these are sister to 3. These thre groups are all the sister all other species. L. terresinarum groups strongly with L. subterranea and is clearly a synonym of this species. L. subterranea is sister to dentata, simile and unnamed species 1 and 2. simile and 2 form a monophyletic group as do dentata and 1 and each of these are sisters.

Biological Notes

Fishes in the genus Lucifuga are parasitised by Genarchella isabellae (Trematoda: Derogenidae) and Procamallanus (Spirocamallanus) lucifugae (Nematoda: Camallanidae) (Coy Otero Garcia and Ventosa 1997, Garcia, Coy Otero and Ventosa 1999).

Conservation Status

MuG [VU D2:2.3:1996]

Alfredo Garcia Debras (pers. comm.) reports that some historical locations for this species have been partially or totally destroyed, some are affected by pollution from industrial and/or domestic sources and others by various engineering works. He also states that some marine fish species have been introduced into the habitat of Lucifuga species, where they not only compete for resources (mainly food) but also actively prey on the cave fishes.

Museum Holdings

Romero (2007) provides the following list of museum specimens and in addition to these

there is one further specimen, the single syntype,  ZMB 6341 (Faloh-Gandarilla et al. 2016:10).

Catalogue number Locality in Cuba Collector Collection date
USNM 00001739 Cuevas de Alquizas Poey Not known
MNHN A-5234 Not known Not known 1865
SU 8510 Hawey Eigenmann 1893 or earlier
CAS 30438 Not known Eigenmann and Riddle 1902
AMNH 18463 Not known Not known c.1904
AMNH 18712 Tranquilidad Eigenmann March 1902
AMNH 18714 Not known Eigenmann March 1902
FMNH 3934 Cañas Eigenmann and Riddle March 1902
FMNH 33090 Not known Eigenmann? Not known
FMNH 52631 Not known Eigenmann Not known
SU 8509 Jaiguan Eigenmann Not known
BMNH 1904.1.28.137 Cañas Not known 1904
BMNH 1904.1.28.135-136 Tranquilidad Not known 1904
MCZ 29902 Cañas Eigenmann 1910
USNM 00204452 Not known Not known 1936?
MCZ 31221 Guira de Melena Carlos de la Torre Not known

Key References

Poey, F. Book Section 1858 Peces ciegos de la isla de Cuba, comparados con algunas especies de distinto genero
Lane, H. H. Journal Article 1903 The ovarian structure of the viviparous blind fishes Lucifuga and Stygicola
Lane, H. H. Journal Article 1908 On the ovary and ova of the Cuban cavefishes
Lane, H.H. Book Section 1909 On the overy and ova in Lucifuga and Stygicola
Eigenmann, C.H. Book 1909 Cave vertebrates of America, a study in degenerative evolution
Nunez Jimenez, A. Journal Article 1944 Los peces ciegos en Cuba
Cohen, D.M. and Robins, C.R. Journal Article 1970 A new ophidioid fish (Genus Lucifuga) from a limestone sink, New Providence Island, Bahamas
Juberthie, C. Journal Article 1971 Notes sur l'ecologie des poissons souterraines de Cuba
Taboada, G.S. Book 1974 Sinopsis de la espeleofauna Cubana. Serie espeleologica y carsologica No. 43
Vina, N., Davila, Zaida and Grana, A. Journal Article 1975 Contribucion al conocimiento de los peces cavernicolas de Cuba
Cohen, D.M. and Nielsen, J.G. Journal Article 1978 Guide to the identification of genera of the fish order Ophidiiformes with a tentative classification of the order
Thines, G. and Piquemal, M. Journal Article 1978 Observations sur les comportements de Lucifuga subterranea Poey (Pisces, Ophidiidae), poisson cavernicole de Cuba
Durand, J.P. Journal Article 1978 Phenomenes de convergences tissulaires et cytologiques, lies aux processus degeneratifs qui affectent l'oeil chez deux teleoteens cavericoles Asytyanax (Anoptichthys) mexicanus (Characidae) et Lucifuga (Stygicola) dentatus (Ophidiidae)
Nunez Jimenez, A. Journal Article 1980 40 anos explorando a Cuba
Varela, E., Barros, O. and Jimenez, S. Book Section 1980 The effects of sugar-waste disposal on a karstic limestone aquifer
Vergara, R. Journal Article 1980 Estudio fenetico de los peces ciegos del genero Lucifuga
Vergara, R. Journal Article 1980 Estudio filogenetico del los peces ciegos del genero Lucifuga (Pisces, Ophidiidae). I Sistematica filogenetica
Nalbant, T. T. Journal Article 1981 A study of the subterranean species of Lucifuga from Cuba, with the description of Lucifuga simile sp. n. (Pisces, Ophidiiformes, Bythitidae)
Vergara, R. Journal Article 1981 Estudio filogenetico del los peces ciegos del genero Lucifuga (Pisces, Ophidiidae). II Bibliografia filogenetica
Vergara, R. Journal Article 1981 Estudio filogenetico del los peces ciegos del genero Lucifuga (Pisces, Ophidiidae). III Aspectos evolutivos
Wourms, J.P. Journal Article 1981 Viviparity: The maternal-fetal relationship in fishes
Burgess, G.H. Book Section 1983 Lucifuga
Burgess, G.H. and Franz, R. Book Section 1987 Zoogeography of the Antillean freshwater fish fauna
Diaz-Perez, P.A., Nieto, E. and Abio, G. Journal Article 1987 Peces ciegos del genero Lucifuga (Ophidiiformes, Bythitidae) en dos casimbas cubanas
Diaz Perez, P. A., Lima, A. M. and Garcia, E. Journal Article 1987 Morfologia externa de ejemplares machos de Lucifuga Simile Nalbant, 1981 (Ophidiiformes, Bythitidae)
Diaz Perez, P.A. Journal Article 1988 Lucifuga teresinarum sp. n. nueva especie cubana de peces troglobios (Ophidiiformes, Bythitidae)
Wilkens, H., Strecker, U. and Yager, J. Journal Article 1989 Eye reduction and phylogenetic age of ophidiiform cave fishes
Garcia Debras, A. and Perez Gonzales, A. Journal Article 1992 Nueva forma y neuva variante en la relacion de las aletas impares para Lucifuga simile Nalbant 1981
Garcia Debras, A. and Perez, A. Journal Article 1992 Nueva forma y nueve variante en la relacion de las aletas impares para Lucifuga simile Nalbant 1981
Garcia-Debras, A and Perez-Gonzalez, A Journal Article 1992 Nueva forma et nueva variante en la relacion de las aletas impares para Lucifuga simile Nalbant 1981
Yager, J., Spokane, R. B., Bozanic, J. E., Williams, D. W. and Balado, E. Journal Article 1994 An ecological comparison of two anchialine caves in Cuba with emphasis on water chemistry
Coy Otero, A., Garcia, N. and Ventosa, L. Journal Article 1997 Helmintos de peces cubanos del genero Lucifuga Poey, 1858 (Ophidiiformes: Bythitidae)
Durand, J.P. Journal Article 1998 Degenerescence spontanee des yeax du poisson cavernicole Lucifuga subterraneus Poey, 1861 (Teleostei, Ophidioidei)
Cohen, D. M. and McCosker, J. E. Journal Article 1998 A new species of Bythitid fish, genus Lucifuga, from the Galapagos Islands
Garcia Debras, A. and Gonzalez, A.P. Journal Article 1999 Estudio sobre la dieta de peces Cubanos (Ophidiiformes: Bythitidae)
Garcia, N., Coy Otero, A. and Ventosa, L. Journal Article 1999 Nematodos asociados a la espeleofauna Cubana
Nielsen, J.G., Cohen, D.M., Markle, D.F. and Robins, C.R. Journal Article 1999 Ophidiiform fishes of the world (Order Ophidiiformes). An annotated and illustrated catalogue of pearlfishes, cusk-eels, brotulas and other ophidiiform fishes known to date
Diaz Perez, P.A. Journal Article 19xx Caracteres meristicos comparados del Genero Lucifuga (Ophidiiformes, Bythitidae)
Hernández, D.A. Thesis 2005 Relaciones evolutivas de las especies del genéro Lucifuga (Ophidiiformes: Bythitidae) en Cuba
Garrido-Linares, M. and Acero, P.A. Journal Article 2006 Peces Ophidiiformes del Atlántico occidental tropical con especial énfasis en el mar Caribe colombiano
Moller, P.R., Schwarzhans, W., Iliffe, T.M. and Nielsen, J.G. Journal Article 2006 Revision of the Bahamian cave-fishes of the genus Lucifuga (Ophidiiformes, Bythitidae), with description of a new species from Islands on the Little Bahama bank
Romero, A. Journal Article 2007 The discovery of the first Cuban blind cave fish: The untold story
Casane, D., Hernandez, D., Garcia, A., Chevalier-Monteagudo, P., Bernathez, L. and Garcia-Machado, E. Conference Paper 2009 Molecular phylogeny and phylogeography of Cuban cave fishes (genus Lucifuga)
Garcia-Machado, E., Hernandez, D., Garcia-Debras, A., Chevalier-Monteagudo, P., Metcalfe, C., Bernatchez, L. and Casane, D. Journal Article 2011 Molecular phylogeny and phylogeography of the Cuban cave-fishes of the genus Lucifuga: Evidence for cryptic allopatric diversity
Garcia-Machado, E., Hernandez, D., Moller, P.R., Bernatchez, L. and Casane, D. Conference Paper 2011 Phylogenetic relationships among Cuban and Bahamian species of the blind cave-fishes genus Lucifuga: A shared lineage among two isoloated archipelagoes
Hernandez, D., Casane, D., Chevalier-Monteagudo, P., Bernatchez, L. and Garcia-Machado, E. Journal Article 2016 Go West: A One Way Stepping-Stone Dispersion Model for the Cavefish Lucifuga dentata in Western Cuba
Moller, P.R., Knudsen, S.W., Schwarzhans, W. and Nielsen, J.G. Journal Article 2016 A new classification of viviparous brotulas (Bythitidae) – with family status for Dinematichthyidae – based on molecular, morphological and fossil data
Faloh-Gandarilla, I., Alvarez-Lajonchere, L.S., García-Machado, E., Guiérrez de los Reyes, E., Orozco, M.V., Cortés, R., Alfonso, Y., Lemus, E., Corrada Wong, R.I., Chevalier-Monteagudo, P., Fernández Osoria, A.R., Pérez de los Reyes, R. and I. Àlvarez, S Journal Article 2016 Catálogo ilustrado de los especímenes tipo de peces cubanos II (Osteichthyes, clase: Actinopterygii: Cyprinodontiformes, Gadiformes, Lampridiformes, Mugiliformes, Myctophiformes, Ophidiformes).
Knudsen, S.W., Møller, P.R., Schwarzhans, W. and Nielsen, J.G. Journal Article 2016 Molecular, morphological and fossil input data for inferring relationship among viviparous brotulas (Bythitidae) – Resulting in a family status change for Dinematichthyidae
Ditter, R.E., Erdman, R.B., Goebel, A.M. and Bracken-Grissom, H.D. Journal Article 2019 Widespread phenotypic hypervariation in the enigmatic anchialine shrimp Barbouria cubensis (Decapoda: Barbouriidae)
Ditter, R.E., Snyder, A.P., Schulman, S.E. and Bracken-Grissom, H.D. Journal Article 2019 Notes on the behavior and first records of three enigmatic anchialine shrimps (Decapoda: Caridea: Barbouriidae, Palaemonidae) in the Bahamas
Ditter, R.E., Mejía-Ortíz, L.M. and Bracken-Grissom, H.D. Journal Article 2020 Anchialine adjustments: an updated phylogeny and classification for the family Barbouriidae Christoffersen 1987 (Decapoda: Caridea)