Spiders get bigger and breed more when living in the city, study finds

The growth of cities is causing certain species of spider to get bigger and reproduce faster, according to a new study. Researchers from the University of Sydney found rather than thriving in areas with lots of vegetation, golden orb weaver spiders living in urban areas of Sydney, Australia, were larger and had more babies. The study, published in the journal PLOS One, examined 222 spiders collected between April and June 2012.

Habitat modifications significantly alter species distributions and can result in increased abundance of select species which are able to exploit novel ecosystems.

University of Sydney study published in the journal PLOS One

Golden orb weaver spiders, known as Nephila plumipes, are found in Queensland in Australia, Indonesia and some Pacific islands. They are characterised by bright, vibrantly coloured abdomens and produce webs up to 1 metre, which appear a golden colour. Females are often three or four times larger than males and, although they do have venom, they are usually harmless.

The larger size and increased reproductive capacity of the spider in urban areas show that some species benefit from the habitat changes associated with urbanisation.

University of Sydney researchers