Lucifuga spelaeotes

Cohen and Robins 1970

Lucifuga spelaeotes
Redrawn by Rhian Kendall from Cohen and Robins (1970)



The specific name has been misspelt speliotes by Anonymous (1979) and speleotes by Warner and Stroes Gascoyne (1981), Palmer (1982) and Cunliffe (1985).




Holotype: USNM 204603 adult male 109mm SL

Paratype: USNM 204604 female 76.5mm SL


Type locality: Mermaids Pool, New Providence Island, Bahamas (25o00’N, 77o30’W). Recorded also from other sites on New providence (Cohen and McCosker 1998, Attrill pers. comm.), Andros Island (Warner and Stroes‑Gascoyne 1981, Proudlove 1984), Berry Island (specimen UMMZ 213989), Long Island (specimen AMNH 57448), Exuma Island (Cohen and McCosker 1998) and Eleuthera (Moller, Schwarzhans, Iliffe and Nielsen 2006) (22-27oN, 72-80oW). (See also Palmer (1982), Farr and Palmer (1984:12) and Palmer (1986a 1986b)). Known only from locations on the Grand Bahama Bank (cf. Lucifuga lucayana which is known only from the Little Bahama Bank).

An individual from Swimming Hole, Congo Town, South Andros Island (TB 370750, also known as Jellyfish Lake) was noted to be 25cm in length and the largest ever observed (Palmer, Hutchinson, Schwabe and Whitaker 1998:100).


This fish lives in anchialine caves (Iliffe 1992; 2000) on several Bahamian Islands. Some of them (e.g. Mermaids Pool, Uncle Charlie’s Blue Hole) are typical inland holes of the cenote type, circular openings between 30 and 250m across and from 2 to 110m depth. They contain freshwater from the surface down to a mixing zone at variable depths and below this full strength sea water (Smart 1984, Porter 1993). L. spelaeotes was collected in the freshwater zone of Uncle Charlie’s Blue Hole (Farr and Palmer 1984; Proudlove 1984), together with the grapsid crab Sesarma angustipes. One individual from this site was placed in a dish of sea water and appeared quite happy so it is possible that migration is possible within the extensive sea water filled passages. Other populations are known from typical marine Blue Holes (see e.g. Farr and Palmer 1984). These are subhorizontal passages, up to several km in length, which open beneath the sea and carry flows of freshwater from inland. A third habitat type, deep fracture oriented chasms, is seen on Grand Bahama (Palmer 1985; Cunliffe 1985).


Placed in the subgenus Stygicola by Cohen and Robins (1970) because of the presence of palatine teeth and a pectoral fin ray count of 15-20. In the subfamily Brosmophycinae. This species cannot now consist of a panmictic population as its many populations are separated by impassable epigean sea water barriers. The morphological similarity of the animals may be as a result of lack of divergence from a once widespread ancestor (when the sea levels were lower and the Bahamian banks were much larger), or they are morphospecies.

Conservation Status

MuG [VU B1ab(iii):3.1:2015]

(Dooley, J., Collette, B., Aiken, K.A., Marechal, J. and Pina Amargos, F. 2015. Lucifuga spelaeotes. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: Downloaded on 10 July 2017.

Some of these criteria relate to a decline in area of occupancy and/or quality of habitat (A1c) and the effects of pollutants, pathogens etc. (A1e). Others relate to a continuing decline in other  important habitat characteristics (B1+2bc). The D2 criterion is applied if the population is estimated as less than 1000, the area of occupancy is less than 100 km2 , or the number of recorded locations is less than 5. If the population of this species on New Providence is considered alone these criteria seem reasonable as the island is small and heavily populated. If the other populations on Grand Bahama, Abaco, Andros, Long Island and Berry Island are added these criteria cannot be supported. The habitats on the other islands are under much less pressure than those on New Providence and the area of occupancy is at least 30800 km2 (220 km x 140 km). Currently this species meets LC, the only subterranean species to do so. Barton and Wilmhoff (1996) record a number of introduced species of fishes on New Providence. These are a potential threat to all of the native fish fauna.

Museum Holdings

As above plus: ANSP 116340, 146475, 147545, 147575, 148055-148060, 148497, 150877; AMNH 31283, 36715, 53011-53013, 57448; UMMZ 213989;  BMNH 1982.12.1:20. See Moller, Schwarzhans, Iliffe and Nielsen (2006) for an extensive list of additional specimens.

Key References

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
Cohen, D.M. and Robins, C.R. Journal Article 1970 A new ophidioid fish (Genus Lucifuga) from a limestone sink, New Providence Island, Bahamas
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
Anonymous Journal Article 1979 Cave fish
Vergara, R. Journal Article 1980 Principales caracteristicas de la ictiofauna dulceacuicola cubana
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
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
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)
Warner, G. and Stroes-Gascoyne, S. Book Section 1981 Ecological report
Yager, J. Journal Article 1981 Remipedia, a new class of crustacea from a marine cave in the Bahamas
Wourms, J.P. Journal Article 1981 Viviparity: The maternal-fetal relationship in fishes
Palmer, R.J. Journal Article 1982 Report of the 1982 British Blue Holes expedition
Palmer, R.J. Book 1983 Blue Holes 1983 report. International cave diving expedition to eastern Grand Bahama
Burgess, G.H. Book Section 1983 Lucifuga
Palmer, R.J. and Williams, D. Journal Article 1984 Cave development under Andros Island, Bahamas
Farr, M. and Palmer, R.J. Journal Article 1984 The Blue Holes: Description and structure
Smart, C.C. Journal Article 1984 The hydrology of the Inland Blue Holes, Andros island
Proudlove, G.S. Journal Article 1984 Preliminary observations on the biology of inland Blue Holes,Andros Island, Bahamas
Palmer, R.J. Journal Article 1985 The Blue Holes of eastern Grand Bahama
Cunliffe, S. Journal Article 1985 The flora and fauna of Sagittarius, an anchialine cave and lake in Grand Bahama
Heath, L.M. and Palmer, R.J. Journal Article 1985 Hydrological observations on the karst of eastern Grand Bahama
Hart, C.W., Manning, R.B. and Iliffe, T.M. Journal Article 1985 The fauna of Atlantic marine caves: evidence of dispersal by sea floor spreading while maintaining ties to deep waters
Palmer, R.J. and Heath, L.M. Journal Article 1985 The effect of anchialine factors and fracture control on cave development below eastern Grand Bahama
Palmer, R.J. Book 1985 The Blue Holes of the Bahamas
Palmer, R.J. Journal Article 1986 Hydrology and speleogenesis beneath Andros Island
Palmer, R.J. Journal Article 1986 The Blue Holes of South Andros, Bahamas
Palmer, R.J., McHale, M. and Hartlebury, R. Journal Article 1986 The caves and Blue Holes of Cat Island, Bahamas
Burgess, G.H. and Franz, R. Book Section 1987 Zoogeography of the Antillean freshwater fish fauna
Yager, J. and Williams, D. Journal Article 1988 Predation by grey snapper on cave bats in the Bahamas
Wilkens, H., Strecker, U. and Yager, J. Journal Article 1989 Eye reduction and phylogenetic age of ophidiiform cave fishes
Kornicker, L.S., Yager, J. and Williams, D. Journal Article 1990 Ostracoda (Halocyprididae) from anchialine caves in the Bahamas
Smith-Vaniz, W.F. and Bohlke, E.B. Journal Article 1991 Additions to the ichthyofauna of the Bahama Islands, with comments on endemic species
Porter, M. Journal Article 1993 The formation and biota of inland and oceanic blue holes
Wilson, W. L. Journal Article 1994 Morphometry and hydrology of Dean's Blue Hole, Long Island
Barton, M. and Wilmhoff, C. Journal Article 1996 Inland fishes of the Bahamas - new distribution records for exotic and native species from New Providence
Yager, J. and Spokane, R.B. Book Section 1997 The biodiversity and water chemistry of an anchialine cave in the Bahamas
Palmer, R.J., Hutchinson, J.M.C., Schwabe, S. and Whitaker, F.F. Journal Article 1998 Inventory of Blue Hole sites explored or visited on South Andros Island, Bahamas
Cocking, S. Journal Article 1999 Can Blue Holes be protected. Pollution and development are their natural enemies
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
Koenemann, S., Iliffe, T.M. and Yager, J. Journal Article 2004 Kaloketos pilosus, a new genus and species of Remipedia (Crustacea) from the Turks and Caicos Islands
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
Daenekas, J., Iliffe, T.M., Yager, J. and Koenemann, S. Journal Article 2009 Speleonectes kakuki, a new species of Remipedia (Crustacea) from anchialine and sub-seafloor caves on Andros and Cat Island, Bahamas
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
Gonzalez, B.C., Iliffe, T.M., Macalady, J.L., Schaperdoth. I. and Kakuk, B. Journal Article 2011 Microbial hotspots in anchialine blueholes: initial discoveries from the Bahamas
Gonzalez, B.C., Singpiel, A. and Schlagner, P. Journal Article 2013 Godzillius fuchsi, a new species of Remipedia (Godzilliidae) from Abaco Island, Bahamas
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
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
Gonzalez, B.C., Martínez, A., Borda, E., Iliffe, T.M., Fontaneto, D. and Worsaae, K. Journal Article 2017 Genetic spatial structure of an anchialine cave annelid indicates connectivity within - but not between - islands of the Great Bahama Bank
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
Gonzalez B.C., Martínez A., Olesen J., Truskey S.B., Ballou L., Allentoft-Larsen M., Daniels J., Heinerth P., Parrish M., Manco N., Ward J., Iliffe T.M., Osborn K.J. and Worsaae K., Journal Article 2020 Anchialine biodiversity in the Turks and Caicos Islands: New discoveries and current faunal composition
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)
Ballou, L., Iliffe, T.M., Kakuk, B., Gonzalez, B.C., Osborn, K.J., Worsaae, K., Meland, K., Broad, K., Bracken-Grissom, H. and Olesen, J. Journal Article 2021 Monsters in the dark: systematics and biogeography of the stygobitic genus Godzillius (Crustacea: Remipedia) from the Lucayan Archipelago
Carpenter, J.H. Journal Article 2021 Forty-year natural history study of Bahalana geracei Carpenter, 1981, an anchialine cave-dwelling isopod (Crustacea, Isopoda, Cirolanidae) from San Salvador Island, Bahamas: reproduction, growth, longevity, and population structure