Climate Change Causing ‘Spider Baby Boom’, Scientists Warn
The rapidly changing climate is impacting the world in more ways than you might expect; scientists have found it’s caused a baby boom among spiders.
While much of the focus around climate change is on melting ice caps and extreme weather events, it must be noted that it also affects countless species.
The warming planet is a threat to many of the creatures living on Earth, including humans, though it seems some species of spiders have adapted to use longer-lasting high temperatures to their advantage – much to the dismay of arachnophobes everywhere, I’m sure.
Due to the Arctic amplification phenomenon, which sees temperatures increase more dramatically in the Arctic in comparison to mid-latitude areas, the region is experiencing longer summers.
A new study, lead by Toke Høye from the Arctic Research Centre and Department of Bioscience at Aarhus University, Denmark, found species such as the wolf spider are already adapting to the warmer conditions, and as a result they have been able to hatch two lots of offspring during the summer, instead of just one as they would usually.
The data for wolf spiders dates back almost 20 years, with researchers at the Zackenberg Research Station in north-eastern Greenland studying the species as part of the Greenland Ecosystem Monitoring programme.
The spiders were caught in small pitfall traps set up in different vegetation types, and researchers monitored them by counting the number of eggs in the individual spider’s egg sacs and comparing it with the time of the season in which the animal was caught.
By looking at the distribution of the number of eggs in the sacs throughout the season, researchers learned that in some summers the spiders produced two egg sacs, The Independent reports. The data suggests the earlier the snow disappears from the ground, the greater the proportion of spiders that can produce a second lot of babies.
The phenomenon has been known to occur in warmer latitudes, but it has not previously been observed in the Arctic.
Discussing the findings, Høye said:
We now have the longest time series of spiders collected in the Arctic. The large amount of data allows us to show how small animals in the Arctic change their life history in response to climate change.
These changes have not been [documented before] and evidence suggests that the phenomenon plays an important role for Arctic insects and spiders.
Wolf spiders feed on small organisms such as springtails in the soil, and if the boom leads to a longer increase in the number of spiders in the Arctic, it may have an influence on food chains.
We can only speculate about how the ecosystems change, but we can now ascertain that changes in the reproduction of species are an important factor to include when we try to understand how Arctic ecosystems react to the rising temperatures on the planet.
So there you have it; if the threat of living on a barren, weather-beaten planet in the future doesn’t encourage you to reduce your carbon footprint, then maybe the threat of being overrun with spiders will.
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