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Researchers at McMaster University who rush in after storms to study the behaviour of spiders have found that extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones may have an evolutionary impact on populations living in storm-prone regions, where aggressive spiders have the best odds of survival.
Raging winds can demolish trees, defoliate entire canopies and scatter debris across forest floors, radically altering the habitats and reshaping the selective pressures on many organisms, suggests a new study published today in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.
Impacts - Swan - Events - Evolution - Selection
"It is tremendously important to understand the environmental impacts of these 'black swan' weather events on evolution and natural selection," says lead author Jonathan Pruitt, an evolutionary biologist and Canada 150 Chair in McMaster's Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour.
"As sea levels rise, the incidence of tropical storms will only increase. Now more than ever we need to contend with what the ecological and evolutionary impacts of these storms will be for non-human animals," he says.
Pruitt - Team - Colonies - Spider - Anelosimus
Pruitt and his team examined female colonies of the spider known as Anelosimus studiosus, which lives along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States and Mexico, directly in the path of tropical cyclones that form in the Atlantic basin from May to November.
To conduct the research, scientists had to tackle many logistical and methodological challenges which included anticipating the trajectory of the tropical cyclones. Once a storm's path was determined, they sampled populations before landfall, then returned to...
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