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Habitat use, but not dispersal limitation, as the mechanism behind the aggregated population structure of the mygalomorph species Atypus affinis

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For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Netherlands Journal of Zoology (Vol 18-52).

Dispersal and habitat selection are the main factors that affect the distribution of species in spatially structured habitat. Species typically occurring in an aggregated way are supposed to experience dispersal limitation or to be highly selective for specific habitat attributes in their environment. In order to understand the distribution pattern of a mygalomorph spider species, Atypus affinis, we conducted an intensive survey to detect correlations of spider densities with specific habitat variables and empirically tested the dispersal propensity of spiderlings. In the field, the spiders exhibited an aggregated distribution correlated with patches of heathlands (dominated by Calluna vulgaris). Contrary to our expectations, laboratory experiments revealed a very high dispersal propensity in juveniles (more than 80% of individuals dispersed at least once during two experiments). This dispersal was strongly context dependent with a pronounced negative effect of starvation and a positive effect of clutch size. Kin competition is hypothezised to be the driving force behind these high dispersal abilities. The aggregation of A. affinis is a likely result of habitat use rather than dispersal limitation.

Affiliations: 1: 3Terrestrial Ecology Unit, Department of Biology, Ghent University, K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35, 9000 Ghent, Belgium; 2: 4UMR 6553 – Université de Rennes 1, 263 Avenue du Général Leclerc, CS 74205, 35042 Rennes Cedex, France

10.1163/157075611X617094
/content/journals/10.1163/157075611x617094
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2012-01-01
2016-12-10

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