Shrinking Freshwater Habitats May Change Diets of Common Wolf Spiders

Greg Howard
18th May, 2024

Shrinking Freshwater Habitats May Change Diets of Common Wolf Spiders

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study took place in western Greenland and focused on the wolf spider Pardosa glacialis
  • Near ponds, there were 3.7 times more ground-dwelling prey compared to upland areas
  • Aquatic insects made up about 23% of the diet of P. glacialis near ponds, but nearly 0% in upland areas
Freshwater habitats in Arctic landscapes are crucial for the sustenance of predaceous terrestrial fauna. However, climate change poses a significant threat to these aquatic resources due to increasing temperatures that lead to widespread drying. Researchers from Dartmouth College have conducted a study to understand the implications of declining surface waters on the diets of the wolf spider Pardosa glacialis, a top predator in western Greenland known to consume both aquatic and terrestrial prey[1]. The study aimed to compare the availability of ground-dwelling prey near and far from shallow ponds and to estimate the contribution of aquatic versus terrestrial prey in the diets of P. glacialis. The researchers found that near ponds, there was a 3.7 times greater abundance of ground-dwelling organisms compared to upland locations. This suggests that ponds are vital habitats for potential prey of terrestrial predators like P. glacialis. To understand the dietary preferences of P. glacialis, the researchers measured the stable isotope ratios of carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) in potential prey taxa. Stable isotope analysis is a method used to trace the flow of nutrients through ecosystems by examining the ratios of different isotopes in organisms. The study found that near ponds, P. glacialis had depleted δ13C values compared to upland locations, indicating a higher consumption of aquatic insects, which are relatively depleted in 13C compared to terrestrial prey. Using linear mixing models, the researchers estimated that the mean relative contribution of aquatic taxa to the diets of P. glacialis at pond locations was approximately 23%, while it was nearly 0% at upland locations. However, these results were accompanied by significant uncertainty, highlighting the complexity of dietary studies in natural settings. This study underscores the importance of Arctic ponds in providing essential food resources to terrestrial predators. The findings align with previous research that highlights the critical role of aquatic resources in supporting terrestrial food webs. For example, a study on pygmy grasshoppers in northern California demonstrated that river algae significantly influence the distribution and abundance of these grasshoppers, providing an additional pathway for energy exchange between rivers and riparian food webs[2]. Similarly, research on Arctic mosquitoes showed that resource quality and intraspecific competition play a significant role in shaping population dynamics, with aquatic biofilms being a crucial resource[3]. The implications of this study are significant in the context of climate change. As Arctic ponds continue to disappear due to rising temperatures, the critical linkages between aquatic insects and terrestrial predators like P. glacialis could be disrupted. This disruption may lead to changes in the structure and dynamics of Arctic food webs, with potential cascading effects on the broader ecosystem. In conclusion, the study conducted by Dartmouth College highlights the vital role of Arctic ponds in supporting terrestrial predators by providing essential aquatic prey. The findings emphasize the need for further research to understand the broader ecological impacts of climate change on Arctic ecosystems and to develop strategies to mitigate these effects. By incorporating previous studies, this research provides a comprehensive understanding of the interconnectedness of aquatic and terrestrial food webs and the potential consequences of their disruption.

EnvironmentEcologyAnimal Science


Main Study

1) Declining freshwater habitats in Greenland may shift diets of the ubiquitous wolf spider Pardosa glacialis

Published 17th May, 2024

Related Studies

2) A basal aquatic-terrestrial trophic link in rivers: algal subsidies via shore-dwelling grasshoppers.

3) Consumer-resource dynamics in Arctic ponds.

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