Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 9–25 | Cite as

Historical Ecology, Responses to Current Ecological Changes and Conservation of Australian Spiders

  • Barbara York Main


In response to geohistorical events from the Mesozoic through the Tertiary with contraction of mesic forest to southwestern and eastern montane and coastal regions, and expansion of woodlands and xeric shrublands, nobreak Australian spiders today comprise relict families and genera (confined to Gondwanan habitats and refuges) along with later evolved representatives which have adapted to changing environments. Tropical relicts also persist in refugia in the arid interior while some spiders (both mygalomorphs and araneomorphs) have adapted to arid conditions, mainly through specialized behaviours. Although fire has become increasingly a phenomenon of the Australian environment it is doubtful whether any spiders are adapted to fire per se. European settlement has impacted differentially on relictual and later evolved representatives; a few species, including the funnelweb (Atraxrobustus) and redback spider (Latrodectus hasselti) have benefited through enhanced habitat opportunities and some species of Badumna and other genera have become synanthropic. It is suggested that conservation strategies need to consider the ecoevolutionary history of particular spiders and their natural vulnerability or resilience to environmental factors.

Australian spiders historical ecology biogeography ecological disturbance conservation 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara York Main
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of Western AustraliaNedlandsAustralia

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