Realized niche shift of an invasive widow spider: drivers and impacts of human activities

Zhenhua Luo, Monica A. Mowery, Xinlan Cheng, Qing Yang, Junhua Hu, Maydianne C.B. Andrade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Predicting invasiveness requires an understanding of the propensity of a given species to thrive in areas with novel ecological challenges. Evaluation of realized niche shift of an invasive species in its invasive range, detecting the main drivers of the realized niche shift, and predicting the potential distribution of the species can provide important information for the management of populations of invasive species and the conservation of biodiversity. The Australian redback spider, Latrodectus hasselti, is a widow spider that is native to Australia and established in Japan, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia. We used ecological niche models and ordinal comparisons in an integrative method to compare the realized niches of native and invasive populations of this spider species. We also assessed the impact of several climatic predictor variables and human activity on this niche shift. We hypothesized that human impact is important for successful establishment of this anthropophilic species, and that climatic predictor variables may determine suitable habitat and thus predict invasive ranges. Results: Our models showed that L. hasselti distributions are positively influenced by human impact in both of the native and invasive ranges. Maximum temperature was the most important climatic variable in predictions of the distribution of native populations, while precipitation seasonality was the most important in predictions of invasive populations. The realized niche of L. hasselti in its invasive range differed from that in its native range, indicating possible realized niche shift. Conclusions: We infer that a preference for human-disturbed environments may underlie invasion and establishment in this spider species, as anthropogenic habitat modifications could provide shelters from unsuitable climatic conditions and extreme climatic stresses to the spiders. Because Australia and the countries in which the species is invasive have differing climates, differences in the availability of certain climatic conditions could have played a role in the realized niche shift of L. hasselti.

Original languageEnglish
Article number25
JournalFrontiers in Zoology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2022


  • Australian redback spider
  • Ecological niche model
  • Invasive species
  • Latrodectus hasselti
  • Niche change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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