January 2018

Caves are excellent natural laboratories for the study of global changes in environment because of their remarkable ecological and thermal stability. The principal mechanisms underlying the response of subterranean species to global climate change are as yet poorly described. Here, for the first time, we examine the effects of past and future climatic changes, using specialized ectothermal subterranean cave spiders as a model system. In our study we show that Pleistocenic glacial dynamics and associated temperature shifts have likely been important drivers in shaping the present-day distribution of our model species. We are able to make projections of our models and identify likely declines in hypogean habitat suitability under future warming scenarios, which are predicted to cause distribution range contractions and local extinctions. Photo by Francesco Tomasinelli. Full paper here

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