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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2015

Extensive niche overlap among the dominant arthropod predators of the High Arctic

Wirta, Helena K.; Weingartner, Elisabeth; Hamback, Peter A.; Roslin, Tomas


In the High Arctic, the species richness of spiders is typically low, but abundances can be very high. Thus, how the few spider species occurring in the region choose their prey, and what prey taxa they focus on, may significantly affect the community structure of arctic arthropods. Here we estimate the ecological imprint of adult spiders of three large-bodied species coexisting in Northeast Greenland: the morphologically similar crab spiders Xysticus deichmanni and X. labradorensis (Thomisidae) and the wolf spider Pardosa glacialis (Lycosidae). To describe an important part of these spiders' diet in detail, we amplified and sequenced DNA from prey remains in their guts, selectively focusing on two of the most abundant prey orders in the area (Diptera and Lepidoptera). By comparing the resultant sequences to a reference library including most taxa encountered in the region, we assigned the prey to species. Among the spider taxa occurring in the region, the wolf spider Pardosa glacialis is dominant in terms of both biomass and density. All three spider species proved to be wide generalists, with no detectable differences in prey choice among either the two crab spiders, or among these crab spiders and the wolf spider. This lack of dietary differentiation among species may be caused by the limited prey availability in the Arctic, forcing the predators to both generalism and opportunism. Given the substantial abundance of spiders and the lack of other predatory arthropods in the region, the opportunistic prey choice observed implies that these High-Arctic spider species have the potential for inflicting a strong influence on their prey community.


Molecular diet analysis; CO1; DNA barcode; Diet width; Niche overlap

Published in

Basic and Applied Ecology
2015, Volume: 16, number: 1, pages: 86-92

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