Master of Science (MS)



Document Type



During Pleistocene glaciation much of the southeastern United States was covered with mixed mesophytic hardwood forest. These forests are composed predominantly of magnolia, holly, and beech with a mixture of other tree species, such as oak and hickory, and a distinct understory. Remnants of mixed mesophytic hardwood forests occur in the southern United States and are important refugia for disjunct and habitat-restricted species. In Louisiana, the mixed mesophytic forest habitat is found mostly in West Feliciana Parish, particularly in the area around St. Francisville. I chose two sites to conduct a study of spider diversity in litter habitats of disturbed and mature forests. Comparing spider species found these two habitats was necessary to understand the effects of disturbance on species richness and abundance. Berlese sampling was used to collect 10-kg samples of forest litter twice monthly from both sites. Collections were made from October 1998 to October 1999. I collected 1725 adult specimens representing 89 species in 14 families. At the mature forest site (Tunica Hills WMA) I collected 909 adult specimens, 58 species in 12 families. At the disturbed forest site (Feliciana Preserve) I collected 816 adult specimens, 73 species in 12 families. Species accumulation and richness estimators indicated the likelihood that additional species were present but not collected during the sampling period. The disturbed site had significantly greater species diversity and more uncommon species, perhaps because of a wider variety of microhabitats and presence of tourist and colonizer species. The mature forest site was less diverse, perhaps as a result of more stable and homogeneous habitat. Multiple disjunct species with northern affinities were found during the course of this study. Twelve species previously unreported for the state were discovered bringing the total to 225 spider species that are known to occur in Louisiana.



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Committee Chair

Christopher Carlton



Included in

Entomology Commons