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Spiders become more aggressive after extreme weather, study says

Hurricanes are making at least one spider species more hostile.

spider

If you spot the spider species Anelosimus studiosus after a storm, it might be best to stay away. 

Thomas Jones/McMaster University

Extreme weather like hurricanes appears to make spiders more aggressive, according to scientists who've been keeping a close eye on the species Anelosimus studiosus on North America's Atlantic coast. 

The study from researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, and the University of California at Santa Barbara was published this week in the journal Ecology and Evolution. The researchers observed that when powerful storms (which many scientists say are increasing in frequency and intensity due to climate change) affect spiders' habitats, their behavior changes too. 

"It is tremendously important to understand the environmental impacts of these 'black swan' weather events on evolution and natural selection," lead author Jonathan Pruitt said in a statement from McMaster University.

By keeping track of weather reports to see where a hurricane would hit, the researchers traveled to areas in the Gulf and Atlantic coasts to study the spiders.   

During their research, the scientists documented how the spiders lived and behaved before a hurricane's landfall and within 48 hours after a storm hit.

After visiting 240 spider colonies at 211 sites before and after hurricanes, they noticed that the colonies that were more antagonistic were the ones that had been hit by the larger storms.

Through their research, they also discovered that more aggressive colonies produced more baby spiders than spiders living areas that weren't struck by as many powerful storms. 

While the research doesn't prove why the storms make this specific species of spiders more apt to lash out, the researchers speculate that the spiders have less food after a storm, so they get more focused on hunting and protecting their limited resources.