Conservation Genetics

, Volume 8, Issue 5, pp 1147–1162 | Cite as

Mitochondrial markers reveal deep population subdivision in the European protected spider Macrothele calpeiana (Walckenaer, 1805) (Araneae, Hexathelidae)

Original Paper


The funnel-web spider genus Macrothele is the only representative of the mygalomorph family Hexathelidae not found in Australia or New Zealand. Its 26 species occur in Central Africa and the Oriental region. Two Macrothele species are found in Europe: M. cretica Kulczynski, 1903 from Crete, and M. calpeiana (Walckenaer, 1805) type species of the genus and the largest European spider, whose distribution extends across the south-eastern Iberian Peninsula, and in two localities of North Africa. Macrothele calpeiana is the only spider protected under European legislation. The fragmentation and destruction of the cork oak forest, with which M. calpeiana was thought to be closely associated, prompted the inclusion of this species in the Bern Convention. Some authors, however, have challenged this view and consider M. calpeiana to be neither a cork oak forest bioindicator nor an endangered species. By contrast, other observations suggest that the distribution of the species is extremely fragmented and that most local populations should be considered as threatened. In this paper, we examine aspects of the conservation status of M. calpeiana in the light of molecular phylogenetic analyses based on mitochondrial markers of sample specimens from major populations. Our data confirm the fragmented distribution of M. calpeiana and reveal high levels of genetic differentiation across its populations. Local population growth cannot be ruled out, though the lineage as a whole has apparently not undergone population growth. Lineage age estimates suggest that M. calpeiana colonized the Iberian Peninsula during the Messinian salinity crisis and that the current population fragmentation originates from the Pliocene and Pleistocene. We argue that the fragmentation and deep genetic divergence across populations, along with evolutionary singularity and endemicity in one of Europe’s main biodiversity hotspots, support the preservation of its legally protected status.


Population fragmentation Mitochondrial genetic variation Iberian Peninsula Betic-Rifean region Spider conservation 



The Dirección General de la Conservación de la Naturaleza of the Spanish Ministry of the Environment provided funding for fieldwork that has greatly improved our knowledge of the distribution of M. calpeiana and that provided most of the samples used in the present study. Leticia Bidegaray provided insightful comments on the draft versions of the paper, which also greatly benefited from the suggestions of three anonymous reviewers. Jesús Miñano assisted with the preparation of the map. Some of the sequences were obtained by M.A. during a period of postdoctoral study in the laboratory of Dr. Alfried Vogler at the Natural History Museum in London. MA was supported by the Program Ramon y Cajal funded by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science and EU FEDER program. This project was partially funded by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science grant BOS2003-05876 (MA) and additional financial support was provided by project 2005SGR00045 from the Catalan Autonomous Government.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departament de Biologia AnimalUniversitat de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Sociedad para el Estudio y la Conservación de las ArañasMadridSpain

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