Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Azaleya. Azaleya Wonders, “Why Is The Only Glow Worm Cave in New Zealand?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Azaleya!
Have you ever walked through a cave? If so, you know they’re some of the darkest places around. Caves are cut off from the Sun, Moon, and stars. Instead, cave hikers carry flashlights that help them see their underground adventures.
So picture this: You’re on a cave hike with your family. You’re walking farther into the cave. It’s getting darker and darker. Just as you’re about to switch on your flashlight, another family member gasps and points up. You look, and you see small dots of light all over the cave ceiling. What’s happened? Are you seeing stars?
No, those aren’t stars! More likely, you’ve come upon a glowworm cave!
Glowworm caves are just what they sound like—caves full of glowworms. Glowworms often live on cave ceilings. They glow blue and weave long, sticky webs to catch prey. Inside a glowworm cave, these webs cause the cave ceiling to appear covered in star-like lights.
Would you like to visit a glowworm cave? Most of them are in New Zealand and Australia. One of the most visited glowworm caves is Waitomo Glowworm Cave on New Zealand’s North Island. There, visitors can view the glowworms inside a 30 million-year-old limestone cave.
Another great place to spot glow-worms is the Natural Bridge at Springbrook National Park in Australia. The park is full of beautiful waterfalls, but at night, glowworms are the main attraction. The area’s humidity makes it a perfect home for the insects.
Can’t make it to New Zealand or Australia? You can also visit Dismals Canyon in Alabama, USA. There, you’ll see the glowworm species Ofelia fultoni, which only live in the Appalachian Mountains and Cumberland Plateau.
In New Zealand, many of the glowworm caves were first discovered by Maori. They are the indigenous people of that country. Maori called the insects “titiwai,” meaning “lights reflected in water.” Later, as scientists began studying glowworms, they came up with the name “Arachnocampa luminosa.” That means “bright spider-worm.”
Experts have found many species of glowworms. In fact, they’ve learned that glowworms aren’t worms at all! Instead, they’re the larval stage of several insect species. Later in life, they cocoon themselves, similar to butterflies. Then, they emerge as full-grown insects.
Visitors to glowworm caves say the experience is a lot like gazing at a starry sky. Would you like to visit one someday? What other interesting creatures might you find on your adventure?
Standards: NGSS.LS1.A, NGSS.LS1.C, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.3, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.SL.1