Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 523–537 | Cite as

Conservation status of the only representative of infraorder Mygalomorphae (Araneae) in cultivated regions of Central Europe

  • Milan Řezáč
  • Petr Heneberg


Purse-web spiders Atypus spp. (Araneae: Atypidae) are the only representatives of the archaic spider infraorder Mygalomorphae in the Central European fauna. These burrow-dwelling spiders are red-listed in all Central European countries. Atypus muralis occurs on relics of continental steppes, Atypus piceus on dry submediterranean grassland and dry herb-rich forest fringes, while Atypus affinis inhabits sparse dwarf dry forests, usually those dominated by oaks. Long-term sustainability of their habitats in the relatively humid Central European climate was maintained by grazing. Since the 1950s, pasturing was terminated across most of Central Europe, which led to immediate overgrowth of pastures by aggressive grasses and woody plants. Grazing was later reinstated in some reserves, but in cases of poorly controlled grazing intensity, footsteps had immediate detrimental effects on the residual populations of purse-web spiders and other invertebrates. Therefore, grazing intensity needs to be regulated, considering its double-edge effects on the biota of xerothermophilic habitats. Nests of European Atypus species have never been found in habitats subject to recent or even regular distribution. Therefore, they may serve as reliable indicators of well preserved xerothermic habitats. Their nests are easy to detect, and the European Atypus spiders can be utilized as model species for monitoring impacts of conservation management. Monitoring population dynamics of Atypus requires establishing permanent study plots of uniform size, documentation of vegetation by phytocenological relevé, counting their density (number of purse-webs found in the plot) and age structure (diameter of purse webs).


Bioindicator species Climatic conditions Cirsio-Brachypodion pinnati Edaphic conditions Festucion valesiacae Genisto germanicae-Quercion Habitat preferences 



We thank Pavel Mudra, Milan Chytrý and Jørgen Lissner for the provision of photographs, Lucie Kratochvílová, Zdeněk Kučera and Jan Zárybnický from the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic for the data about habitats in the Czech Republic, Tomáš Klouček for help with the distribution maps, and Marie Luise Schmidt for corrections of the manuscript. This study was supported by the Ministry of Agriculture of the Czech Republic (Grant MZe RO0414).


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biodiversity LabCrop Research InstitutePrague 6-RuzyněCzech Republic
  2. 2.Third Faculty of MedicineCharles University in PraguePrague 10Czech Republic

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