Brown recluse spider habitat to expand with climate change

March 29, 2011 By Jen Humphrey

One of the most feared spiders in North America is the subject a new University of Kansas study that aims to predict its distribution and how that distribution will be affected by climate changes.

When provoked, the spider, commonly known as the brown recluse (Loxosceles reclusa), injects powerful that can kill the tissues at the site of the bite. This can lead to a painful deep sore and occasional scarring.

But the wounds are not always easy to diagnose. Medical practitioners can confuse the bite with other serious conditions, including and various cancers. The distribution of the spider is poorly understood as well, and medical professionals routinely diagnose brown recluse bites outside of the areas where it is known to exist.

By better characterizing its distribution, and by examining potential new areas of distribution with future climate change scenarios, the medical community and the public can be more informed about this species, said study author Erin Saupe, a graduate student in geology and a Biodiversity Institute student.

To address the issue of brown recluse distribution, Saupe and other researchers used a predictive mapping technique called ecological niche modeling. They applied future climate change scenarios to the spider’s known distribution in the Midwest and southern United States. The researchers concluded that the range may expand northward, potentially invading previously unaffected regions. Newly influenced areas may include parts of Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, South Dakota, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“These results illustrate a potential negative consequence of on humans and will aid medical professionals in proper bite identification and treatment, potentially reducing bite misdiagnoses,” Saupe said.

The paper was published in the March 25 edition of the journal PLoS ONE.

Explore further: Evolution mystery: Spider venom and bacteria share same toxin

Related Stories

Evolution mystery: Spider venom and bacteria share same toxin

February 1, 2006

It's a case of evolutionary detective work. Biology researchers at Lewis & Clark College and the University of Arizona have found evidence for an ancient transfer of a toxin between ancestors of two very dissimilar organisms--spiders ...

A changing climate for protected areas

April 2, 2007

On April 6, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release a report entitled Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability that focuses on how climate change is affecting the planet.

Nationwide spread of Lyme disease is focus of new study

September 10, 2009

( -- Lyme disease has become a major public health issue in the northeastern United States since it was first identified in Connecticut in the 1970s. But the scientific community is uncertain as to why the risk ...

Finding the missing pieces

March 25, 2011

( -- Missing pieces in the biodiversity puzzle make it impossible to accurately predict the effects of climate change on most plant species in the Amazon and other tropical areas, according to a new study by Associate ...

Recommended for you

ZomBee Watch helps scientists track honeybee killer

October 9, 2015

While scientists have documented cases of tiny flies infesting honeybees, causing the bees to lurch and stagger around like zombies before they die, researchers don't know the scope of the problem.

Gene editing: Research spurs debate over promise vs. ethics

October 9, 2015

The hottest tool in biology has scientists using words like revolutionary as they describe the long-term potential: wiping out certain mosquitoes that carry malaria, treating genetic diseases like sickle-cell, preventing ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Mar 30, 2011
Wouldn´t like to get bitten by one of these little fellas.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.