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SALENTO AND SEA

 

 

Salento and sea

The Salento is the last corner of Apulia and is with no doubt one of the most beautiful places in all the Mediterranean sea thank to its position that separates the east zone Santa Maria di Leuca from the west zone. On the east side there is the Adriatic sea, on the west side there is the Ionian sea. Along the coastline there are either long sandy shores and cliffs that drops sheer to the beach. From a biological point of view there is a great variety of living species in particular in some areas such as Porto Cesareo, the coastline between Otranto and Leuca, and the nature park of the Cesine. The peninsula of the Salento has a coastline of more or less 300 km, it extends over a surface of 7000 sq. Km and it lies from NW to SE. According to popular belief the two seas meet near the Punta Ristola (39°47'18 '' N of latitude and 18°20'48 '' E of longitude) but from a geographic point of view this happens near Punta Palascia (Otranto) 40°06'22'' N of latitude and 18°31'22'' E of longitude. This point is considered the South part of the Adriatic sea because here the distance with the coasts of Albany are at the shortest (75 km).  The Ionian coast goes from Taranto to Santa Maria di Leuca, the channel of Otranto goes from here to the homonym town and we call Adriatic coast from Otranto to Torre Guaceto (Br).  

 

Coastline morfology

In the Salento there are more or less as many sandy as rocky shores. Mainly we can Sandy  coastsay that the West coast is sandy and the East coast is rocky. The coastline from Otranto to Santa Maria di Leuca is very interesting and we can find cliffs also 100 m high and several beautiful and famous caves  in particular the Zinzulusa Cave. The sandy shores on the two coasts of the Salento have different origins as we can guess from the structure of the grains. The sand is very fine near the Alimini Lakes on the Adriatic coast, while it is coarser and rich of small shells on the Ionian coast in particular near Porto Cesareo. The main reasons for the difference of the sands are two: Firstly, in the Salento there are no rivers that carry the small sand grain to the sea as it happens in the north Adriatic sea for example with the River Po and the sand shores of Rimini and Riccione. "Palascia"The second reason has to do with the Ionian current which goes anticlockwise and takes the sediments of the rivers of Lucania towards the other side of the Gulf of Taranto. How where then those sandy shores created? The sand of the Alimini Lakes comes from the mouth of the rivers in the northern Adriatic and the smallest grains are carried here from the descendant currents. This kind of sand is very fine and the wind blow it towards the hinterland creating high dunes up to 10-12 metres. The plants and the vegetation of the dunes are important to prevent erosion of these areas. The sand of the west coast was created by organogenesis, that means it was made up of parts of living sea creatures and coarse sediments. Taking a handful of sand we can still distinguish the small shells and this kind of sand. Even if the sand grains are bigger, there are a lot of dunes and also the same long shores as on the other coast. The rocky coast has mainly a karstic origin. From Taranto to Porto Cesareo we can follow and endless sandy shore, from here to Santa Punta MelisoMaria al Bagno the coastline is made of low rocks then all the coast is sandy up to Torre Vado but not near Gallipoli. The coast becomes again rocky in Torre Vado and it reaches Otranto becoming higher and higher. From Otranto to Brindisi the coast is sandy apart from the areas of Torre dell’Orso and S. Foca. Other particular areas are the small islands not far from the shore and the humid areas behind the dunes. The only small island in the Salento is the island of Sant’Andrea along the coast of Gallipoli which has maintained his wild vegetation being a military base. There is a great number of coastal lagoons. Usually they are small closed basins narrowly connected to the sea. They contain brackish water and they are natural oases of great importance. The general situation of those Inletoases is very positive because they are not polluted by farms even if in the past there was some unauthorized buildings. To prevent all kinds of pollution all the area will soon be protected by the law. Two areas have been chosen for this purpose: one is on the Adriatic coast near Torre Guaceto (Brindisi) and a second one near Porto Cesareo on the Ionian coast. A third one will be created in the future for the protection of the coastline that goes from Otranto to Santa Maria di Leuca. Other interesting areas are the Island of Sant’Andrea and  Punta Pizzo. In the Cesine there is a naturalistic oasis that is already working thank to the WWF and was declared natural area of international interest.  

 

 

Costal lagoons

A coastal lagoon is a  kind of marsh situated between the dry land and the sea and usually separated from the sea by a narrow strip of small dunes. Marshland was usually considered unhealthy because it was the perfect habitat for some insects that could carry contagious diseases as malaria mosquitoes. These areas were often reclaimed Dune through networks of canals to help the change of the water as we can still see near Torre Pali along the Ionian coast. The characteristic features of those areas are a low rock coast and a flux of fresh water from the hinterland. As we said before, in the Salento there are no rivers but in the underground there are huge deposits of fresh rain water due to the karstic origin of the rocks. The water of those subterranean deposit is not still but moves slowly toward the sea where it creates several subterranean springs with icy water  that can easily be seen going snorkeling. In the sandy coast those springs create a kind of marsh where fresh water can mix to the water of the sea. This mixture can change the characteristics of the water in particular the salinity. The water of those marshes has a kind of salinity that is half way between sea salinity and fresh water. The salinity of those brackish water is about  17 ‰ (17 gr. of salt per liter of water) while the average sea salinity is 37‰ and that of fresh water is close to 0. Since the water of those marshes is usually not shallower than 2m and it can be changed only by tide or sea storm we can understand how temperature, salinity and oxygen are main factors to study the living creatures of the marshes. Only few living organisms survive in the Vegetation at the back of the dunes marshes and they are mainly animals. Some of them spend their lives in the marshes while others, as those fish that can bear a change of salinity, live in the marshes only during their youth because there is great food availability and because they can find a shelter against the predators that live in the open  sea. The tidal wave carries the larvae in those lagoons, usually between autumn and spring, they live here during the summertime then return in the open sea in the following winter. Several fish come to live in those humid areas and many of them are also popular as gastronomic specialities as the dentex(Dentex dentex), giltheads (Sparus aurata), white breams (Diplodus vulgaris, Diplodus sargus), bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) and the common gray mullets (Mugil cephalus). People has learned to exploit those basins for natural aquiculture. In those small  ecological system, the change of water sea and the flux of fresh water from the subterranean springs provide both nourishment for the living creatures also for Alimini  Lakesseaweed, plants, and also benthos clams such as the Pinna nobilis (the biggest in the Mediterranean sea) , crustaceans and grub eaten by many of the cited fish. Other animal species in particular migratory birds find in the humid dune areas a perfect place where to rest and refresh themselves before leaving for their long-distance flights. The white egret , many species of ducks, the cormorans and many others can be easily observed by bird-watchers. There are several humid dune areas in all the Salento: on the Ionian coast we can find them between Torre San Giovanni and Torre Vado, along the Adriatic coast the most interesting ones are that of the Alimini Lakes (north from Otranto) and the WWF oasis of the Cesine.  

 

 

Chemical-physical characteristics of the sea in the Salento

The main characteristic of sea water is certainly its salinity which indicates the quantity of several salts solved in the water. According to salinity there are several kinds of Sweet water springswater: the average salinity of the sea in the Salento is 38‰ that means 38 gr. of salts per liter of water. Salinity is not constant as it changes for many reasons. First of all the temperature of the water and then the presence of water-bearing strata in the subsoil. When the salinity goes down to 17‰ the water is called brackish as at the mouth of the rivers, coastal lagoons and everywhere the water of the sea mixes with fresh water. The temperature of the water has great importance because it can influence water salinity but also the quantity of nourishment and gas solved in the water. As the temperature rises the relative quantity of those substances lowers proportionally.  Spring and winter are best seasons for the growing of life because the temperature of the water reaches is ideal for the Inlet of the Ciolo  development of several small animals and plants. The temperature goes from 13-15° C to 30 in summertime. The heat that the sea concentrate in the summertime can be released in the winter. Summertime in the Salento is always very warm but winters are mild and spring is a true explosion of flowers and colors in a way it could hardly be thought of during the summer heat. Oxygen is vital to the organisms that live on land but also for those who live in the sea both animal and vegetal therefore more the sea is oxygenated the more it is full of life. Beside oxygen other important solved gases: carbonic anhydride that represents the waste gas of respiration,  the nitrogen and the hydrogen used only by specialized organisms. Besides the salts there are also countless other substances and particles in the water of the sea. Sediments, organic drifts and microscopic animals are the Inlet of the Ciolo  nourishment for several living species. Many vegetal organisms can transform inorganic substances in basic organic compounds as sugar and proteins necessary for all living creatures. Other organisms take their nourishment from organic substances or from plankton that is made up of microscopic vegetal and animal organisms. Sunlight is extremely important for the life of all the creatures of the sea. Vegetable organism need it to make the Chlorophyll Photosynthesis probably the first engine of life on Earth. The more we go in the depth the more it gets dark and we can hardly see anything at 100 m depth. Different vegetables can live at different depths according to how much light they need: we can divide them in animal that live in the light and others that prefer the darkness Low rocky coastand are called sciophilous. The last important characteristic of the sea is its movements: currents, tide and waves. They can all influence the parameters we have seen as far (temperature, salinity and density). They assure water replacement, new nourishment for vegetables and food for animals. We can all see waves and they are created by friction of wind on the sea surface. Their strength and their dimensions depend on weather conditions. They cause coast erosion but are essential for the oxygenation of the water. The long sandy shores of the Salento are slowly being eroded by the wave movements and several local authorities are planning precautions to prevent further backing of the coastline. On the Adriatic coast there is a descendant flow coming from the north. This same current changes direction after Leuca and flows towards NW in the Gulf of Taranto.

 

 

Underwater life 

Sea environment can be classified in two groups:

ˇ        open sea

ˇ        benthos which identifies the seabed and the organisms living on it

The benthos world is divided in :

ˇ        "Sopralitorale", the area that lies just above the level of the highest tide. Only Phalium granulatumthe drops of the waves can reach those areas and the only inhabitants are small fish and shellfish.  

 

 

 

 

 

ˇ        "Mesolitorale", the area that lies between the top and the bottom of the tide. Even if this area if often wet and then suddenly dry there are several living species that got used to living in it. Limpets, acorn shells, crabs, sea anemones and seaweed are very common in this area.

ˇ        "Infralitorale", the area underneath the sea level where it is still possible to Coral reef  find Posidonie or seaweed, usually up to 30 meters. A typical seaweed is the Cystoseria, the Acetabularia and also the famous sea lattice. Among the animals of this area we can certainly remember sea urchins, star fish, sea anemons, shellfish as the octopus, fish as grey mullets, salpas, and mullets.

ˇ        "Circalitorale" the last area is deeper in the sea and is already in the darkness. There are more animals than vegetables and here in the darkness they are of the brightest kind. Here live the corals, sponges, lobsters, crawfish, groupers and dentex. 

As we can guess from this short analysis there is a strong link between the environment Scorpaena scrofaand the species living in it and this is what the scholars call biocenosis. Studying the sea environment of the sea in the Salento we can notice several biocenosis but the life system between the sea level and 50 meters deeper is one of the most interesting. The kind of seabed is one of the factors that can have great influence on the life of the organisms. In the Salento there are several kinds of seabed and they are classified in the five following groups:

 

 

ü             Mobile seabed

ü    Rocky seabed

ü       Coralligenous seabed

ü       Grasslands of Poseidonia

ü       Sea caves

 

 

Mobile seabed 

With this type of classification, we  to mean all those seabed made sediments that are not consolidated. The absence of firm substrata influences considerably all the benthonic organisms that live in these surroundings. On the base of the changing nature and granulometry of the particles we can distinguish three great categories of mobile depths: 

o       Muddy seabed

o       Sandy seabed

o      Gravel seabed

 

From the point of view of the composition, we can distinguish two type of sediments:

 

§         Terrigenous, created by the erosion of land and brought into the sea by rivers, and by streams. This type of sediment can usually be found near the coasts.

§         Organogenic, directly created in the sea by the precipitation of skeletal residuals of planktonic organisms (small organisms that live suspended in the water at the mercy of the streams), like those calcareous of foraminifera or those siliceous of radiolarians and diatoms, but by fragments of shells. This type of sediments forms the so called coral sands; they are far from the coast, near isles and banks where there is the absence of terrigenous sediments.

 

The organisms that live in those surroundings are classified according to dimension and their adaptation to the habitat:

 

ü     meiobčnthos (from Greek meion = smaller and benthos = depth), microscopic organisms that live in interstices among particle of sand, very important because they are food of bigger animals.

 

ü     macrobčnthos (from Greek makron = big), all those organisms bigger than 5 mm; some of them live inside the sediment, others are fixed to the substrate with the help of specialized organs and others are free to move near the depth looking for food.

 

 

When the sediment is particularly fine and incoherent, the main difficulty is to anchor. The sessile organisms (that live always anchored to the substrate) have different organs of anchorage depending on the species; real roots for plants like Posidonia or Cimodocea, the peculiar byssus for bivalve molluscs, like Pinna Nobilis. Other kindsStenopus spinosus of sessile animals of this type of depth are sponges, tubicolous worms (that live in a tube of chitin, structural substance produced by themselves), like the beautiful Sabella spallanzani and some echinoderms (a group of animals covered by thorns like urchins and starfishes) like crinoids (Antedon mediterranea) with the typical plumose appearance, that anchor themselves to the sediment using tentacles. The animals that prefer to become hollow, use this strategy for different scopes: in order to escape from predators, other are predators themselves and the bigger part of them live permanently in this condition of concealment. These animals for example are of different zoological groups, i.e. bristlestar (Ophiotrix fragilis) among echinoderms, that passively filter water thought thorns covered by mucus on the little arms that come out from the sand; or bivalve molluscs very appreciated in our cooking like clams Cerianthus mambranaceus(Tapes decussates) also filterers. Among fishes, also adaptive to the surroundings, we find the coloured mullets (Mullus barbatus) with its characteristic barbells, a sort of tactile whiskers they use to find small preys; the tongue fish (Solea sp.) crushed so they can camouflage themselves under the substrate of sand and the dangerous Trachinus araneus, with their poisonous prickle used to discourage every attaches. In Salento mobile seabed is on both side; important for dimensions and biology are, on the Ionic side, those near Porto Cesareo (area destined to become a National sea Park), and those near Torre Vado, while on the Adriatic side, all seabed from Otranto to Torre Guaceto.  

 

 

Rocky seabed

From many points of view, this type of depth is surely the richest and most interesting that the sea of Salento can offer. In many places is possible to appreciate these wonders of the nature; Porto Selvaggio, Torre Inserraglio o Santa Caterina on the Dardanus arrosor“neretina” coast (from Latin Neretum, of the city of Nardō); other places of the Channel of Otranto, from the most famous like Leuca, Castro, Porto Badisco, Otranto to the least famous but similarly spectacular like Novaglie, Tricase, Marittima and many other that deserve a careful visit. Many characteristics make this seabed so fascinating: just underneath the sea level there is a multitude of seaweeds. The most evident and famous is the Cystoseira genre that forms wide dark bushes firmly fixed to the rocks, sometimes completely emerged during low tide. Among seaweed, there often are many animals species grouped in dense banks, like mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis), sessile bivalve molluscs or strange little fishes like the blenny (Parablennius gattorugine, P. ingognitus), that, even though can freely move, always live near a cover generally a little hole in the rock. Inside rocky gorges grow other types of seaweed loving the shade; they are called sciophilous  and together with other animals, like sponges, they cover with their colours the surface of Dardanus arrosorrocks. In illuminated areas but deeper than the previous, there are some seaweed called peafowl tie (Padina pavonica), with the shape suggested by the name, or the Acetabularia acetabulum made of a unique and great cell that can have a length of 3-5 cm. In the deepest areas where photosynthesis is not possible, seaweed is gradually replaced by animals. The list of animals you can meet with this type of depth is enormous; sometimes, among sessile species, that permanently live on the substrate, it is hard to distinguish an organism from another, because their relations are so dense that in a small space we can meet many different species. Often they are filtering organisms in competition for the space, but sometimes they also take advantage  from this situation. Some animals can freely move, some move slowly, like urchins and starfishes, and are called cropper organisms; others, like fish, swim very fast, either to capture preys or to escape predators.  


 

Coralligenous seabed

With this word we mean all those structures basically made by calcareous formations both of seaweed and animals, sessile (anchored to the substrate) and sciophilous (that prefer shade), that grow either on rocky or mobile seabed. They are generally optimal health indicators, because they live only in pure environments. Sometimes they can live also at 130 m depth. In the Salento this kind of seabed can be found also in a lower Coral reef  depth, about 10-15 metres which is quite rare for the rest of Mediterranean Sea, where it is found at about 30 metres. Thanks to the particular geographic position, in the Salento we can find animal species normally absent in the nearer oriental seas. The peninsula of Salento is surrounded by the most diversified biocenosis of the Mare Nostrum; it is everywhere, at different depths, on both sides, from Casalabate to Leuca and, with some interruptions, until Punta Prosciutto. The basic organisms are vegetal but they tend to calcify, to harden, giving a further substratum to many other organisms, especially animals, that grow up forming real buildings that can shelter other bigger animals. It is like a co ownership, whose habitations are living structures themselves, growing up and with the most different shape and dimensions. It is hard to make a list of the species living in this way. Some of them live also in other types of depths, but others are typical of these surroundings. One of the most beautiful and interesting  species are the sea fans, red and yellow (Paramuricea clavata, Eunicella cavolinii) both very rare in Oriental Mediterranean Sea, but present in Salento especially in banks far from the coast; the as many coloured reed sponges (Axinella cannabina) with which are often combined the yellow polyps of Parazoanthus axinellae, another animal of the same group of urticant jellyfishes (i.e. Rizostoma pulmo,  Aurelia aurita) that live in open sea passively carried by stream.  

 

 

Grasslands of Poseidonia

The Posidonia (Posidonia oceanica) is a terrestrial plant but it became adapted to sea life. They have their roots, rhizomes (creeping underground stems that connect several plants), leaves,  flowers but only in particular periods of the year, fruits and seeds though not every year. These plants take root on a mobile seabed, from few inches depth until over 40 meters if the water is considerably clear. When there are favorable Sabella spallanzaniiconditions the Posidonia forms some real grasslands that can extend also over ten square meters. Moreover the leaves have also a remarkable vertical growth and in the great grassland of Posidonia near Gallipoli the leaves are even 1 meter high. In the Salento you can find them everywhere along the coast, both on sandy and rocky depths, but always on a mobile seabed. Walking along some sandy shores, (for instance in Torre Mozza, Torre vado, on the Ionian side but also near the  WWF oasis of the Cesines) , we can easily guess a Posidonia grassland by the conspicuous deposits of dead leaves on the shoreline as a consequence of  violent sea storms. This kind of environment has a remarkable biological importance, not only because it is the "green lung" of the sea, but above all because it represents a shelter, a wide net of hideaways for several animal species. Besides it is an ideal surface for the life and development of sessile organisms, both animals and plants, which is a strong call for other species. If we want to compare it with some terrestrial environments, the grassland of Posidonia can be identified more as a forest of great trees that offer shelter to a lot of other kinds of animals and plants, rather than to a lawn of green grass as we would say at first. As forests and woods compact the underlying ground, so these grasslands strongly stick to the depths with their rhizomes, they fight coastal erosion and reduce wavy motion they help in  protecting the shore.   

 

 

Sea caves

We call sea caves all those structures that are totally or partially submerged by sea waters. In the Salento there are two different kinds of caves each with a different origin: 

ü     Karstic caves are created by the water eroding calcareous rocks before flowing in the sea. 

ü     Sea caves created by the erosion of the waves or by the action of the salt dissolved in the sea water. 

For both types of caves it is very interesting to know more about the mineral Entrance of the Zinzulusa Cave constitution of the rocks that form the coast of the Salento. On the whole territory there are about fifty submerged caves, and as many other have not been completely explored yet. Many of those caves are very interesting from a biological point of view but have also an archaeological importance due to the finds recovered. In many places, in fact, there were a lot of animal fossils of the rhino or buck that means that they were regularly chased by the prehistoric populations of these lands when they were sheltered in these ravines. Besides, manufactured articles of different nature and historical periods have been found, and this allowed the researchers to have an idea of conditions of life of these men in the past. Recoveries of this kind are those of  "Grotta del cavallo" (The horse cave) and the cave "Uluzzo", near S. Caterina, on the Ionian coast and those called "Prazziche" caves, in the gully of the Ciolo, near Gagliano del Capo. No doubt however that the most important recovery is that of 1970 that concerns the fascinating paintings of Inside of the Zinzulusa  Cave Neolithic age (around 7000 years ago) in the "Grotta dei cervi" (Bucks'cave) in Porto Badisco, along the coast that from Santa Cesarea brings to Otranto; there is no public admittance to this cave in order to preserve the integrity of the paintings. From a naturalistic point of view, the most interesting caves in the Salento, is the "Zinzulusa" cave in Castro or "Grotta delle Corvine" in Torre Uluzzo, on the coast of Nardō, the caves of the Ciolo in Gagliano del Capo on the coast that from Leuca it brings to Otranto. The sea caves can be classified by their position on sea level. Some caves are completely outside the sea and can easily be seen from the sea or from the coast. Others are completely submerged with the sea Cave of the Morigio (Santa Maria di Leuca)water and their openings in the rocky wall  are also 50 meters depths.  However they all get darker and darker as we move inside because only the sunlight makes them brighter. The light progressively degrades and disappears entirely around 130 meters from the sea surface; in the caves sunlight disappears progressively, but on a horizontal direction, toward the inside of the hollow, at about ten meters from the mouth. This characteristic has a remarkable importance in the distribution of the living organisms that populate such environments. Here we cans study those behaviors that normally happen to notable depth, or do not occur at all which makes the species living in these environments very exclusive. The organisms living in the caves do not move as in open water, according to the gravity, but  they Cave of the Circle (Sanat Maria di Leuca)  depend on the riptides coming in and out of the cave. In those environments then there is a strong classification according to the different characteristics of the section of cave they live in. We can easily distinguish two kinds of animal groupings, those typical of half-darkness zones, mainly sponges and antozois (from the Greek antos = flower, animal organisms similar to a flower, for instance the anemone or Anemonia sea sulcata) and those of the dark zones, in which some kind of worms and different shellfishes predominate, those are almost always blind and almost with a transparent aspect. Some of them live in some caves of Salento from which they often take their name, as for instance the prawn Salentinella gracillima.  The first group is typical of the entrance of the cave, that is usually in shade; while the second kind is characteristic of the most inside and dark Ciolopart, where there is no light. Because of the lack of light, there are only a few vegetable organisms and you can find them often within the first meters after the mouth where they are able to develop the chlorophyll photosynthesis. The darkest zones are colonized only by extremely specialized organisms, they can survive only for their alimentary strategies and however they depend upon the nourishment from outside both in direct way, as it happens in the case of many shrimps which  find their nourishment outside the cave and go out during the night, or for indirect action as that of the filters, that withdraw the organic substances suspended in water and transported passively by the riptide toward the inside of the cave.  A very important action in this complex system of transport of the energy, from the outside toward the inside is also played by detritus eaters organisms that take nourishment from fragments of organic organisms and from the decomposition of The Mannute (Gagliano del Capo)  animal and vegetable organisms by a series of destroyer bacteria. This kind of food network is typical of deep sea environments, abysmal and is very difficult to study because of the elevated depth, therefore also for this reason these environments need careful studies and a particular safeguard and respect from everybody. The most known cave of Salento is certainly the Zinzulusa, a few kilometers northward Castro, along the coast that brings to Santa Cesarea. The entrance is almost entirely emerged and it opens in one of the most beautiful parts of the coast, next to a huge cliff and it almost sinks on the sea. From the outside we can see  the comfortable platforms that allow a calm and fascinating visit to whoever wants to enjoy this wonder of nature. The Zinzulusa, as a lot of other caves in the Salento coasts, was formed by an intense erosive action, essentially caused by the wavy motion and by salinity, and from continuos karstic activity, typical of this part of Italy. Its name probably derives from the dialect word "zinzuli" (hanging rags) and it refers to the frame of stalactites above the entrance.  The cave is divided in four sections of different geomorphology: from the atrium you overcome the first stalagmite, through a burrow that widens then in the Hallway, on the right of which a little pond called Conca where people found some fragments dating to The three doors (Santa Caterina)the Neolithic period. Immediately after the Basin, begins the longest part of the whole cave, the Corridor of wonders with its spectacular calcareous formations. There it is the "Trabocchetto", a small mirror of clear water, which is hard to notice at a first look, surrounded by numerous stalactites and stalagmites with their own names. The last part of the Corridor is rich in calcareous columns and has been denominated the Crypt, beyond which there is the Cathedral, a great tall room up to 24 ms, in which there were about 10 ms of guano (deposit of excrements of aquatic birds or bats); from here you pass to a little underground pond called Cocito. Before being known to the great public, the Zinzulusa has been obviously object of several scientific consignments, that has appraised its historical, geologic but also ethnologic and above all biological importance. Those caves are inhabited by several animals. Sea caves are usually Burzatti cave  inhabited by bats even if their presence in the Zinzulusa is slowly decreasing. The Spelaeomysis bottazzi is a small and almost transparent prawn that has been living in the Zinzulusa for ages and the habitat of the cave has protected it from the dangerous changes of the sea outside. Another famous and important shellfish of the Zinzulusa is the Hadzia diminuita the only one existing in Italy even if there are two of them in Yugoslavia which underlines the historical closeness of the two places. The Higginsia ciccaresei is a sponge that has adapted to sea life in the Mediterranean sea. This specie is very important because the other sponges are used to living in other kinds of habitats. This variety of species makes the Zinzulusa the richest cave in the Salento from a biological point of view. The remains found in the Zinzulusa are anyway interesting. The cave was inhabited by the men in several ages and all the remains are in the paleontology Museum of Maglie or in the National museum of Taranto and other The columns (Porto Selvaggio) important ones in Italy. The Romanelli cave is surely less spectacular if compared to the Zinzulusa. Its entry is very simple and is less than 10 m high on the sea level and the inside of the cave is shorter and less interesting. It has anyway an important historical background because the first signs of Paleolithic art were found in this cave and they are the oldest of those age in the whole nation. The objets found were hand made items and were made of stone and bone. On the walls there were graffiti of animals and several weapons dating to 13000 or 8000 years ago. The analysis of the strata inside the cave have helped the scholars to figure out the environment of the cave and the men living in it. Along the Ionian coast and especially near the coast of Nardō there are some beautiful underwater caves. The most famous one is the Corvine Cave which is Vora Grande (Barbarano)named after the fish we can see going snorkeling. It is near Torre Uluzzo south from Torre Inserraglio. It was discovered in 1987 by a group of spelaeologists from Nardō and it is still today a useful exercise for those  who want to learn underwater spelaeology. Inside the cave it is possible to meet thousands of Leptosammia pruvotii with its yellow octopus. The small prawns Mysidacea live in the cave during the day and they go out in the night to hunt their small preys. Other important caves are Uluzzo cave, near Santa Caterina and the Horse cave where several remains were found in the past. In the first there were teeth of human kind and some hand made objects in stone. The remains of the second cave have helped the scholars to understand the daylife of the inhabitants. Also near Santa Maria di Leuca there are about 36 sea caves and every one has its characteristic features of form and color and its historic or archaelogic importance. Leaving from Santa Maria di Leuca we can go towards the East coast or the West coast following two different routes. Going towards Punta Ristola we see the Porcinara cave that was surely dug by men but for this reason is not less important because several remains were found inside the cave. On the walls there are Greek and Latin inscriptions which have been studied for a long time by famous specialists. It Satrea cave (Presicce)could have been a sanctuary for sailors who used to thank their gods for a good crossing from Greece. Each part of the cave was dedicated to a god. At the beginning there was Jupiter and Venus but since the Middle Ages there were also cross signs symbol of Christian worship. Near Punta Ristola we can visit the Devil’s cave. During an excavation in 1870 people found several fossil remains. Beyond the Devil’s Cave going toward west, there is a series of small inlets with the Ciaffaru Cave, Talatu Cave, Punta Crocodile then the Circle Cave, Mesciu Scianni Cave, the River cave following with the three Doors Caves which should be visited. The first is also called Creep Cave or Theatre cave. Stalactites and stalagmites St. Maria of the cave (Presicce)  create a suggestive atmosphere that the tourist will certainly appreciate. Less than 40 kms far from those caves there is the Giant’s Cave named after the remains of huge fossil pachyderms in the walls of the cave. Bronze coins, bones and fragments of various abjects were also found in this cave. Going towards San Gregorio we can see two openings in the rocky coast: the Stall cave and the Rimesa that are wonderful because of the colours of their walls and for the reflections of the sea. The last cave on the East coast is Dragon Cave more or less 1 km away from the Marcheddu tower and the homonym point where it was built in the 16th century. On the second route, along the East coast, we can instantly admire the stately cliff that drops sheer to the blue beach. The first thing we see are the cazzafri, small caves that become interesting in particular at the sunset. Next to them the is the Morigio cave probably named after the moors that used the cave before attacking the area. After Punta Meliso we can find the Terradico cave, the Ortocupo Cave, Porrano cave and Verdusella caves. The Chasm Cave has wonderful effects of colors then still further there is the Giuncacchia Cave, the cave of the two stones, and other small The Mannute (Gagliano del Capo)  caves as the cave of the Well, the cave of the Books, the Grotticelle, li Giardine and the Galategghiu Cave. The Well Cave also known as Vucca de lu puzzu is famous because of its water that looks like a kind of magic mirror of icy water. The inside of the cave is stately and still inhabited by bats. There are also small animal bones that testify that men used to live here. Finally, the Cave of the Ciolo is the longest of the Salento and inside there was a small beach where monk seals used to live and look after its pup. One of  the last seals was photographed in 1979 and nowadays they live only along the coasts of Turkey and North Africa but we can still hope that those beautiful and fascinating animals will come back to live on our shores.

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