• One of the first study to model the distribution of alien species in caves
  • Meta bourneti has most likely been introduced in Great Britain
  • Temperature seasonality and habitat heterogeneity mostly drive Meta spiders distribution
  • Due to climate change, there will be poleward shifts in the ranges of Meta spiders in Great Britain


The threshold zones between the epigean and hypogean environments are generally characterized by less harsh ecological conditions than deep subterranean habitats, and usually support a greater abundance of organisms. Transitional habitats such as these should be more easily colonised by alien species, especially by those possessing exaptations suitable for subterranean life. In spite of this, few studies have been conducted to unravel the ecological dynamics between native and alien species in the habitats situated at the epigean/hypogean interface. A unique test case is offered by cave-dwelling Meta orb-weaver spiders in Great Britain (Araneae: Tetragnathidae). One species, M. menardi, is a widespread native, whilst M. bourneti is believed to be a recently introduced (1940s) species, that has since become established in the south-eastern part of the country. Species distribution models (SDM) were used to predict current and future habitat suitability for the two species, generating hypotheses regarding their distribution in different global warming scenarios. Model projections indicate that the two species respond to similar environmental variables. Seasonal temperature variations at the surface and elevation are the main factors explaining the distribution of both species, whereas annual precipitation, daily temperature range and limestone distribution contributed little to the model performance. It is predicted that due to climate change, there will be poleward shifts in the ranges of both species. However, the native species M. menardi will primarily be able to exploit suitable areas which will appear northward to their current distribution, and M. bourneti will colonise empty niches left available by its congeneric. The analytical framework employed in this paper may be easily adapted to other subterranean systems and species, stimulating future studies focusing on the distribution of native and alien species in extreme environments.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License