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The Effects of Extreme Urban Heat on Behavioral Syndromes of Juvenile Black Widow Spiders, Latrodectus hesperus

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Urbanization rapidly alters the environment, leading to a decrease in biodiversity in urban areas. A challenge associated with urbanized areas is the increased heat caused by the urban heat island

Urbanization rapidly alters the environment, leading to a decrease in biodiversity in urban areas. A challenge associated with urbanized areas is the increased heat caused by the urban heat island effect. Heat may have an important impact on arthropods particularly due to their status as ectotherms. Animal behavior reveals how individuals interact with their environment. A behavioral syndrome describes consistent individual differences in behaviors that are correlated across different behavioral contexts or situations. Understanding the Western Black Widow's behavioral responses to the urban heat island effect has important implications for the control of a pest species. In this study, the relationship between rising urban temperatures and voracity, web-building, and cannibalism behaviors of juvenile Western Black Widows was examined. Spiders raised in the urban temperature treatment were predicted to have more aggressive behavioral syndromes, characterized by shorter latencies to forage, greater web-building activity, and shorter latencies to cannibalize as compared to spiders raised in rural or intermediate temperature treatments. A correlation between the latency to attack the first fly and second fly was found, however there were no other correlations evidencing a behavioral syndrome. Temperature was found to affect foraging, web-building, and cannibalism behaviors where spiders in urban areas demonstrated increased activity in all behavioral contexts. The possession of behavioral plasticity rather than a behavioral syndrome is likely what allows Black Widows to be successful urban pests.

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  • 2018-05