Changing Climate in the Arctic Causes Spider Boom

by Saarang Kashyap

As the Arctic grows increasingly warm due to climate change, different species reach extinction while others multiply as a now warmer habitat becomes suitable for their survival. Many species of spiders, prominently the wolf spider, have become increasingly abundant as longer summers, wildfires, and ever-earlier snowmelt take over the polar landscape.

It was previously reported that plants bloomed earlier in the season while some animals moved into more mountainous regions due to a warmer climate. A team of researchers led by Toke Høye from the Arctic Research Centre and Department of Bioscience at Aarhus University has now shown that changes are also occurring in the reproduction of invertebrates.

Wolf spiders feed on small organisms such as springtails in the soil. The Independent states that “The spiders were caught in small pitfall traps set up in different vegetation types. The researchers counted the number of eggs in the individual spider’s egg sacs and compared this information with the time of the season that the animal was caught. By looking at the distribution of the number of eggs in the egg sacs throughout the season, the researchers said it became clear that in some summers the spiders produced two egg sacs – a recognized phenomenon in warmer latitudes, but not one which has previously been observed in the Arctic.”

If there are more spiders — or insects — in the future Arctic, it can have an influence on food chains on land. “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,” Dr Høye said. ScienceDaily mentions that scientists now predict an earlier occurrence of snow disappearance to a greater proportion of spiders that can produce a second clutch of offspring. Only time can tell if new species like the wolf spider will spring up and inhabit a rapidly changing Arctic.