Academic journal article The Science Teacher

On Guam, More Snakes = Fewer Birds = More Spiders

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

On Guam, More Snakes = Fewer Birds = More Spiders

Article excerpt

Scientists studying how the loss of forest birds is affecting Guam's ecosystem have found that the Pacific island's jungles have as many as 40 times more spiders than are found on other nearby islands, such as Saipan.

"You can't walk through the jungles on Guam without a stick in your hand to knock down the spiderwebs," said Haldre Rogers, lead author of an article on the study conducted by biologists from Rice University, the University of Washington, and the University of Guam. The article appears in the journal PLOS ONE.

The high spider population may reflect the impact of the invasive brown tree snake. The snake, accidentally introduced to the island in the 1940s, wiped out 10 of the island's 12 native bird species by the 1980s. The last two species live only in small areas protected by intense snake-trapping.

Many birds consume spiders, compete with spiders for insect prey, and use spiderwebs in their nests. Smaller-scale experiments in other ecosystems have shown a link between the presence of birds and the abundance of spiders, but the new study is the first to examine the impact of bird loss over an entire forest. …

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