Alien spider introductions to Europe supported by global trade


Correspondence: Wolfgang Nentwig, Community Ecology, Zoological Institute, University of Bern, Baltzerstrasse 6, 3012, Bern, Switzerland. Tel. +41-31-631-4820; Fax: +41-31-631-4888; E-mail:


Global trade is permanently ongoing and increases its volume every year. In this study, the occurrence of 87 unintentionally introduced spider species alien to Europe is analysed. The analysis includes (1) the introduction potential of six different origin areas of the world according to trade volume, area size, and geographical distance; (2) the body size of native and alien species; and (3) occurrence in or at buildings (synanthropic) or in natural habitats. We found the eastern Palearctic as the most influencing origin area with 44 introduced spider species to Europe. The eastern Palearctic and the Indomalayan provided a significantly higher number of introductions than expected, whereas the Nearctic, Neotropical, and Afrotropical provided a significantly lower number of introduced species than expected. This can be explained with their lower trade volume, smaller area, larger geographical distance to Europe, and stronger climate differences to Europe. Comparing the body size of introduced and native European spider species of the same family, we found for Theridiidae significantly larger alien spiders and for all other tested families a trend to a larger body size of alien species compared to the native spiders. The family affiliation of alien spiders is the most important factor for synanthropic occurrence in Europe. On the base of a very conservative estimation of spider species introductions to Europe combined with possible effects of climate change, we predict for the near future a permanent increase in the number of alien spider species in Europe.