Population structure in a saproxylic funnelweb spider (Hexathelidae: Hadronyche) along a forested rainfall gradient


James D. Woodman, CSIRO Entomology, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, 2601 ACT, Australia. Email: James.Woodman@csiro.au


We present research undertaken at Tallaganda State Forest, Australia, describing how current climatic conditions impact upon the saproxylic (decaying wood) habitat and the relationship between this habitat and the demography and morphology of a saproxylic funnelweb spider (Hadronyche sp.). Climatic data support a north–south habitat cline and, to a lesser extent, a short-range, aspect-driven habitat cline. Rainfall and log moisture content increased with latitude through the forest, and aspect affected the amount of solar radiation penetrating to ground level. The distribution and abundance of Hadronyche varied among sites along both clines in response to several variables. The decay state of logs was highly influential, with wet, highly decayed logs favoured over dry, hard ones. Population density was highest in wetter, southern sites where these logs were abundant, but rare, suitably decomposed logs in dry, northern sites still typically hosted a comparable number of individuals. Morphological measurements showed some phenotypic variation along the north–south habitat gradient, but not over the short-range, aspect-driven gradients. Hadronyche would not be expected to show similarly strong patterns of molecular variation as seen in saproxylic Collembola and Onychophora within Tallaganda as it appears to be more vagile.