Lanscape genetic of an invasive spider undergoing range expansion
The colonial spider Cyrtophora citricola (Araneidae) has a wide geographic distribution in semi-arid, subtropical and tropical areas of Asia, Africa and the Mediterranean basin, and has recently invaded the Americas. Moreover, it is dispersing into new habitats and expanding its range within the Mediterranean. One hypothesis for this range expansion is that C. citricola responds to climatic warming and drying of the Mediterranean region by invading new suitable habitat.
Additionally, the species may be expanding its range due to the increased area of intensive agriculture. In Israel, colonies in some areas undergo ‘boom & bust’ dynamics, while in other areas they are more stable. Understanding the ecological and genetic parameters that affect population dynamics and result in these population oscillations are vital for predicting the consequences of invasions by C. citricola and their potential threat as agricultural pests.
In my postdoc project I investigate genetic and ecological determinants of range-expansion in Cyrtophora citricola using a combination of predictive species distribution modelling and population genetic analyses on samples collected across Israel.
My project is a collaboration with Trine Bilde, Yael Lubin at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and Deborah Smith from Kansas University.