Sunday, February 8, 2015

Are Pine Cone Spiders Just Litter Spiders?

Many of the spider species I've found in fallen pine cones have also been found in forest litter*.  This raises the question, do spiders randomly wander into fallen cones because cones are simply a constituent of the litter, or do spiders gravitate to cones because cones are a separate microhabitat that provides something that litter doesn't?

*Forest litter consists of tree needles/leaves and other plant debris (including cones) that accumulates on the forest floor.

I began pursuing this question in 2012 by sampling eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) cones and associated litter in Massachusetts.  I'll blog about that soon, but since I'm presenting my past spider collecting trips in reverse chronological order, I'm first going to recount a 7-day collecting trip that Rod Crawford and I took in Washington's Chelan and Spokane counties in October, 2013.  During The Great Spokane County Expedition, as Rod playfully dubbed it, I was able to compare the spider catch from fallen ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) cones and associated pine forest litter.

Below are maps showing the locations of our sampling sites.  Map 1 shows the relative location of the Chelan Co. (map-center) and Spokane Co. sites (map-right) within Washington state.  Map 2 zooms in on the Chelan County sites.  Map 3 zooms in on the Spokane County sites.  Maps were made with GPSVisualizer.

Map 1. Location of 2013 Pinus ponderosa fallen cone and litter sampling sites in Washington
Map 2. Location of sampling sites in Chelan Co.
Map 3. Location of sampling sites in Spokane Co.
Stay tuned for my first field report from this 7-day excursion: Bear Mountain, Chelan County, Washington.

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