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article imageBrown recluse spiders may expand US range due to global warming

By Lynn Herrmann     May 6, 2011 in Environment
Lawrence - Brown recluse spiders, known for their necrosis-inducing bite, may expand to other part of the US due to global warming, a new report shows, leading to a possible increase of bite misdiagnoses already occurring outside the spider’s endemic area.
The journal PLoS ONE has published a new study showing that future climate change scenarios could allow a northward expansion of the species.
Habitation with humans (moving, etc.) could impact its range, but now is primarily found in the south-central US, from southern Illinois down to Texas and from eastern Tennessee westward to Kansas. The brown recluse prefers dark, dry areas, and excluding human habitation locations, can often be found within the bark of dead trees and under stones.
The study notes that geographic ranges of many species on the planet are currently changing, due to their ability to respond to climate change. Using liberal and conservative forecasts of change, the study’s analysis suggests a northward shift as well as an expansion eastward and westward for the spider.
Although the brown recluse’s cold-temperature tolerance currently limits its habitation to a line south of roughly half of Illinois, range expansions for the spider could be plausible if historical or biological barriers are also overcome.
Because many people, including medical personnel, do not adequately understand the spider’s current range, its bites are routinely misdiagnosed outside those endemic areas. Those bite misdiagnoses include Lyme disease, fungal infections, squamous cell carcinoma, and lymphoma.
Using ecological niche modeling (ENM), the study’s authors suggest current distribution of the spider might change as a result of global warming, with those newly influenced areas including parts of Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, South Dakota, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
More about brown recluse, Spider, Climate change, Spider bite, dark area
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