Caves share unique conditions that have led to convergent adaptations of cave-dwelling animals. In addition, local factors act as filters on regional species-pools to shape the assemblage composition of local caves. Surveys of 35 Levantine caves, distributed along a climate gradient from the mesic in the north of Israel to hyper-arid areas in the south of Israel, were conducted to test the effect of cave characteristics, location, climate, bat presence, and guano level on the spider assemblage. We found 62 spider species and assigned four species as troglobites, 28 as troglophiles, and 30 as accidentals. Precipitation, elevation, latitude, minimum temperature, and guano levels significantly affected the composition of cave-dwelling spider assemblages. Caves situated in the Mediterranean region had higher species richness and abundance, as well as more troglobite and troglophile arachnids. These discoveries contribute to the knowledge of the local arachnofauna and are important for the conservation of cave ecosystems. By comparing spider assemblages of Levantine caves to European caves, we identified gaps in the taxonomic research, focusing our efforts on spider families that may have additional cryptic or yet to be described cave-dwelling spider species. Our faunistic surveys are crucial stages for understanding the evolutionary and ecological mechanisms of arachnid speciation in Levantine caves.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by the Israel Taxonomy Initiative (ITI) biodiversity survey grant to E.G.R. and Y.L., and ITI and Ben-Gurion University fellowships to S.A.
© 2021 by the authors.
- Accidental cave visitors
- Species diversity