Invertebrate Systematics Invertebrate Systematics Society
Systematics, phylogeny and biogeography

Species status and conservation issues of New Zealand’s endemic Latrodectus spider species (Araneae : Theridiidae)

Cor J. Vink A F , Phil J. Sirvid B , Jagoba Malumbres-Olarte C , James W. Griffiths D , Pierre Paquin E and Adrian M. Paterson C

A Biosecurity Group, AgResearch, Lincoln Science Centre, Private Bag 4749, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand.

B Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, PO Box 467, Wellington 6140, New Zealand.

C Bio-Protection and Ecology Division, PO Box 84, Lincoln University, Lincoln 7647, New Zealand.

D Department of Conservation, Wellington Conservancy, PO Box 5086, Wellington 6145, New Zealand.

E Cave and Endangered Invertebrate Research Laboratory, SWCA Environmental Consultants, 4407 Monterey Oaks Boulevard, Building 1, Suite 110, Austin, TX 78749, USA.

F Corresponding author. Email:

Invertebrate Systematics 22(6) 589-604
Submitted: 29 July 2008  Accepted: 21 November 2008   Published: 22 December 2008


New Zealand has two endemic widow spiders, Latrodectus katipo Powell, 1871 and L. atritus Urquhart, 1890. Both species face many conservation threats and are actively managed. The species status of the Latrodectus spiders of New Zealand was assessed using molecular (COI, ITS1, ITS2) and morphological methods and with cross-breeding experiments. Latrodectus katipo and L. atritus were not found to be reciprocally monophyletic for any of the gene regions or morphological traits. Other than colour, which is variable, there were no morphological characters that separated the two species, which cross-bred in the laboratory and produced fertile eggsacs. Colour variation is clinal over latitude and correlates significantly with mean annual temperature. We conclude that L. atritus is a junior synonym of L. katipo. An example of introgression from the Australian species L. hasseltii Thorell, 1870 was also detected and its conservation implications are discussed.

Additional keywords: conservation genetics, cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI), DNA, internal transcribed spacer regions (ITS), intraspecific variation, Latrodectus atritus, Latrodectus hasselti, Latrodectus hasseltii, Latrodectus katipo, phylogenetics, taxonomy.


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