Caves are not closed systems. Trophic dynamics in these habitats are driven by resource availability, and species that move between cave and outdoor environments may play a major role in resource availability. Spiders are among the most abundant invertebrates in caves; however, very few studies have tested factors hypothesized to affect the distribution of spiders among caves, and it is not known whether the trophic features of caves play a role in determining the occurrence, abundance, or breeding success of spiders. We assessed the distribution of the cave-dwelling orb-weaver spider Meta menardi in Italy, in a Mediterranean and in a Pre-alpine area during summer and winter. We analyzed the relationships between spider distribution and multiple cave features, describing both the abiotic and the biotic environment. Using visual encounter surveys, the detection probability of this species was high, indicating that this technique provides reliable information on spider distribution. In Mediterranean caves, spider presence was more likely in cold and wet caves with abundant dipterans. In Pre-alpine caves, spider presence was more likely in deep caves with abundant dipterans. Dipteran abundance was the variable best explaining spider distribution when pooling all sampled caves. This study shows that adults of M. menardi do not occur randomly among caves, but select caves with specific features. Prey availability and abiotic features are major determinants of habitat suitability for cave spiders. The strong relationship between spider distribution and prey availability suggests that the distribution of these spiders might be an indicator of the resources available in the twilight zones of caves.

The distribution of cave twilight-zone spiders depends on microclimatic features and trophic supply

Lunghi E.;
2015

Abstract

Caves are not closed systems. Trophic dynamics in these habitats are driven by resource availability, and species that move between cave and outdoor environments may play a major role in resource availability. Spiders are among the most abundant invertebrates in caves; however, very few studies have tested factors hypothesized to affect the distribution of spiders among caves, and it is not known whether the trophic features of caves play a role in determining the occurrence, abundance, or breeding success of spiders. We assessed the distribution of the cave-dwelling orb-weaver spider Meta menardi in Italy, in a Mediterranean and in a Pre-alpine area during summer and winter. We analyzed the relationships between spider distribution and multiple cave features, describing both the abiotic and the biotic environment. Using visual encounter surveys, the detection probability of this species was high, indicating that this technique provides reliable information on spider distribution. In Mediterranean caves, spider presence was more likely in cold and wet caves with abundant dipterans. In Pre-alpine caves, spider presence was more likely in deep caves with abundant dipterans. Dipteran abundance was the variable best explaining spider distribution when pooling all sampled caves. This study shows that adults of M. menardi do not occur randomly among caves, but select caves with specific features. Prey availability and abiotic features are major determinants of habitat suitability for cave spiders. The strong relationship between spider distribution and prey availability suggests that the distribution of these spiders might be an indicator of the resources available in the twilight zones of caves.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11697/193213
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