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Urbanization-driven changes in web building and body size in an orb web spider

Authors
  • Dahirel, Maxime
  • De Cock, Maarten
  • Vantieghem, Pieter
  • Bonte, Dries
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2019
Source
Ghent University Institutional Archive
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown
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Abstract

In animals, behavioural responses may play an important role in determining population persistence in the face of environmental changes. Body size is a key trait central to many life-history traits and behaviours. Correlations with body size may constrain behavioural variation in response to environmental changes, especially when size itself is influenced by environmental conditions. Urbanization is an important human-induced rapid environmental change that imposes multiple selection pressures on both body size and (size-constrained) behaviour. How these combine to shape behavioural responses of urban-dwelling species is unclear. Using web building, an easily quantifiable behaviour linked to body size and the garden spider Araneus diadematus as a model, we evaluated direct behavioural responses to urbanization and body size constraints across a network of 63 selected populations differing in urbanization intensity. We additionally studied urbanization at two spatial scales to account for some environmental pressures varying across scales and to obtain first qualitative insights about the role of plasticity and genetic selection. Spiders were smaller in highly urbanized sites (local scale only), in line with expectations based on reduced prey biomass availability and the Urban Heat Island effect. Web surface and mesh width decreased with urbanization at the local scale, while web surface also increased with urbanization at the landscape scale. The latter two responses are expected to compensate, at least in part, for reduced prey biomass availability in cities. The use of multivariate mixed modelling reveals that although web traits and body size are correlated within populations, behavioural responses to urbanization do not appear to be constrained by size: there is no evidence of size-web correlations among populations or among landscapes, and web traits appear independent from each other. Our results demonstrate that responses in size-dependent behaviours may be decoupled from size changes, thereby allowing fitness maximization in novel environments. The spatial scale at which traits respond suggests contributions of both genetic adaptation (for web investment) and plasticity (for mesh width). Although fecundity decreased with local-scale urbanization, A. diadematus abundances were similar across urbanization gradients; behavioural responses thus appear overall successful at the population level.

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