Biological Invasions

, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 1379–1387 | Cite as

Synergy between two invasive species, redback spiders and rabbits, threaten the endangered Cromwell chafer beetle

  • Jackie Spencer
  • Yolanda van HeezikEmail author
  • Philip J. Seddon
  • Barbara I. P. Barratt
Original Paper


Interactions between invasive species can be difficult to predict and can result in unanticipated impacts of significance for native fauna. Here we show that introduced European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) create habitat that enables invasive redback spiders (Latrodectus hasselti Thorell, 1870) to establish and prey upon the nationally endangered, endemic Cromwell chafer beetle (Prodontria lewisii Broun, 1904). We examined the spatial relationship between rabbit holes and redback spider occurrence, recorded all prey caught in redback spider webs over a 4-month period, and tested the role rabbit holes play in providing habitat for redback spiders experimentally, by filling in rabbit holes in areas used by spiders and monitoring subsequent occupation of the areas over four months. Redback spiders predominately resided in old rabbit holes, with the highest densities of spiders coinciding with high densities of rabbit holes. Cromwell chafer beetles were commonly caught in webs. Filling in rabbit holes eliminated the presence of redback spiders at all treated sites and reduced prey capture in those areas. Conservation management to protect Cromwell chafer beetles should focus on eliminating rabbits and their holes from beetle habitat.


Invasional meltdown Latrodectus hasselti Oryctolagus cuniculus Prodontria lewisii New Zealand 



Thanks to the Alexandra Department of Conservation Office for logistical support and to Mike McConachie who provided technical help with ArcGIS.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  2. 2.Invermay Agricultural CentreAgResearchMosgielNew Zealand
  3. 3.Department of BotanyUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

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