Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 183, Issue 1, pp 71–82 | Cite as

Thermal and hygric physiology of Australian burrowing mygalomorph spiders (Aganippe spp.)

  • Leanda D. Mason
  • Sean Tomlinson
  • Philip C. Withers
  • Barbara Y. Main
Original Paper


This study investigated the standard metabolic rate (SMR) and evaporative water loss (EWL) responses of three Australian trapdoor-constructing mygalomorph spider species, two undescribed arid-zone species (Aganippe ‘Tropicana A’ and A. ‘Tropicana B’) and a mesic-dwelling species (A. rhaphiduca) to acute environmental regimes of temperature and relative humidity. There were significant effects of species, temperature, and relative humidity on SMR. SMR was lower for A. raphiduca than both A. ‘Tropicana’ spp. with no difference between the two A. ‘Tropicana’ spp. Metabolic rate increased at higher temperature and relative humidity for all three species. There were significant effects of species, temperature, and relative humidity on EWL. The mesic Aganippe species had a significantly higher EWL than either arid Tropicana species. EWL was significantly higher at lower relative humidity. Our results suggest an environmental effect on EWL but not SMR, and that mygalomorphs are so vulnerable to desiccation that the burrow provides a crucial refuge to ameliorate the effects of low environmental humidity. We conclude that mygalomorphs are highly susceptible to disturbance, and are of high conservation value as many are short-range endemics.


Trapdoor spider Aganippe ‘Tropicana’ Aganippe rhaphiduca Metabolic rate Water loss Temperature tolerance 



The UWA School of Animal Biology is acknowledged for funding and infrastructure support. We also acknowledge AngloGold Ashanti and the Tropicana Joint Venture, and particularly Belinda Bastow, for arranging further funding, infrastructure and logistical support for the field component of this study, and for their interest in mygalomorph conservation. Magdalena Davis and ecologia Environment are acknowledged for their provision of background data on the undescribed Aganippe species. S. Tomlinson was supported during the period of this study by an Australian Post-graduate Award.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leanda D. Mason
    • 1
  • Sean Tomlinson
    • 1
    • 2
  • Philip C. Withers
    • 1
  • Barbara Y. Main
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Animal BiologyThe University of Western AustraliaCrawleyWestern Australia
  2. 2.Science DivisionThe Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority, Kings Park and Botanic GardensWest PerthWestern Australia

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