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A translucent shrimp walking along a rocky surface under water
Information icon A Kentucky cave shrimp. Photo by John MacGregor, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

Kentucky cave shrimp

Palaemonias ganteri

  • Taxa: Crustacea
  • Range: Kentucky
  • Status: Endangered


The Kentucky cave shrimp is a small crustacean that grows to a length of 30mm (1.18 inches), lacks eyes, and has a translucent body. These features suggest the animal has long lived underground. It is one of only two known species of the genus Palaemonias and is one of only three existing species of its family found in North America and Mexico.


The Kentucky cave shrimp only lives in underground streams. They typically inhabit large, base-level cave streams characterized by slow flow, abundant organic material, coarse to fine grain sand, and coarse silt sediments.

A small peach-white frog
Carrie Allison, a USFWS biologist in Kentucky, surveys for the Kentucky cave shrimp at Hades Passage in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky.


This crustacean feeds by grazing the surface of sediments in caves, consuming protozoans, algal cells, fungi, and other organic materials.

Historical range

The Kentucky cave shrimp is found exclusively in Kentucky. It has only been observed in underground streams in and surrounding Mammoth Cave National Park in central Kentucky.

Before it was listed as an endangered species, the Kentucky cave shrimp was known from five localities, including four within the Echo River Spring Groundwater Basin and one from the Pike Spring Groundwater Basin.

Current range

Currently, the Kentucky cave shrimp is restricted to nine groundwater basins in the Mammoth Cave National Park region of central Kentucky:

  • Echo River Spring
  • Ganter Spring
  • Running Branch Spring
  • Mile 205.7 Spring
  • Pike Spring
  • Double Sink (Sandhouse Cave)
  • Turnhole Spring
  • McCoy Blue Spring
  • Suds Spring

Counties Where the Species is Known or Believed to Occur

  • Kentucky: Hart, Barren and Edmonson counties
Map showing the current range for KY cave shrimp in south central Kentucky
Current range map by USFWS.

Conservation challenges

The main threats for this species are poor water quality and habitat deterioration resulting from groundwater contamination, siltation caused by poor land use practices, and other non-point source pollutants. Small population size and isolation of populations makes the Kentucky cave shrimp vulnerable to random or stochastic events (e.g. toxic chemical spills).

Subject matter experts

Designated critical habitat

Critical habitat for this species was designated in October 1983, and consists of a stream in a base level cave passage in Mammoth Cave.

Map showing KY cave shrimps' critical habitat in Mammoth Cave National Park
Critical habitat map by USFWS.

Federal Register notices

The following Federal Register documents were automatically gathered by searching the Federal Register Official API with this species’ scientific name ordered by relevance. You can conduct your own search on the Federal Register website.

  • We're sorry but an error occurred. Visit the Federal Register to conduct your own search.

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