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Urbanization Is Supersizing Spiders

City-dwelling spiders are bigger than their country-living brethren

smithsonian.com

A female golden orb weaver spider. Photo: Arthur Chapman

City living brings with it a few shifts in lifestyle compared to rural habitation: shorter commutes, accessible shops and, often, an over-reliance on restaurant dining and fast food. Another side effect of the congested, cramped, cement-laded city life is that the temperature tends to be a little warmer year-round, a shift known as the “urban heat island” effect.

As it turns out, these changes aren’t only affecting cities’ human populations. In Australia, where spiders already have a propensity to be terrifyingly large, new research by University of Sydney PhD candidate Lizzy Lowe, says The Age, found that Sydney’s higher temperatures and easier access to food are driving the spiders to grow even bigger.

She studied the golden orb weaver in three types of environments in and around Sydney – urban parks, remnant bushland and continuous bushland. Twenty sites were studied and, for each spider web found, she assessed its proximity to man-made objects and vegetation.

Comparing the sizes of the spiders, she found that the city spiders outpaced the country spiders. And, though her research focused only on Golden orb weaver spiders, she suggests that the same effect can probably be seen in other species.

More from Smithsonian.com:

100-Million-Year-Old Spider Caught in the Act of Pouncing on Its Prey
Could Spider Venom Be a Viagra Stand-In?
Spiders “Under The Influence”

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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