Habitat & GeographyCyclosa conica located on its web

Take a moment to close your eyes and imagine your dream home. Where would it be located? What types of neighbors would you prefer to interact with? What would the climate be like? How about the interior decorating? Well, if you are the Cyclosa conica spider, then your dream home is a quaint 15 to 18 centimeter in diameter vertical orb web gorgeously decorated with stabilimenta that includes egg sacs, prey leftovers, and debris (Tso 1998). To clarify a bit, stabilimenta is just an incredibly fancy term for the web decorations that we see in the Cyclosa conica web. This “décor” is equivalent to you adorning your home with the remains of your dead enemies, yuck! Now that I have your attention, let’s delve deeper into where we can find this peculiar creature and why.

Now you might envision a white sand beach, or a bustling street in a large city as your ideal location to build that gorgeous home that I had you illustrate in your mind in the previous paragraph. For the Cyclosa, however, the edges of the temperate forest habitats provide the perfect environment to set up shop (Opell 2001). These forests range anywhere from Southeastern Alaska, Western Canada, Northeastern and Northwestern United States, to Western Europe (Encyclopedia of Life n.d.). A forest edge habitat is defined as an intersection of two or more different habitats that is oftentimes a consequence of human actions, such as logging and deforestation (Huyett et al. 2004). Although the creation of these habitats have many harmful impacts on our environment and the habitats of numerous other organisms, there are plenty of benefits for the Cyclosa conica based off of this “edge” location. In additiion to the diverse vegetation of both these habitats that is oftentimes present in this single area, there is also a substantial increase in the amount of plants located in the understory (Huyett et al. 2004). These two characteristics represent perks of this particular habitat. This burst of greenery can be attributed to the increased sunlight that these plants are exposed to based on their edge location (Huyett et al. 2004). This buffet of food sources causes many species such as white-tailed deer, fox, and turkeys to flock to these areas, which heightens the diversity present here (Huyett et al. 2004). The Cyclosa conica is also found in many forest edges within the Angelo Reserve in California. There you can also find a plethora of diverse organisms within these edge habitats ranging frmo the Steller's Jay, to the Northern California Alligator Lizard, and the Long-tailed Weasel. You may be wondering how this type of location benefits the Cyclosa spider specifically, and I am thrilled to explain this in the following paragraph.
Map of locations of Cyclosa conica

The Cyclosa conica spiders, and other orb-weaving varieties, are extremely sensitive to their environment because their livelihood relies on having a sturdy and trustworthy spot to anchor their web (Korenko et al. 2011). This is similar to why you might desire to live in a safe and quiet neighborhood. This provides the spider with protection and stability in its survival. There are two main types of locations where the Cyclosa conica tend to reside. Most commonly, they build their webs in the understories of forests between tree branches where the lighting is rather low, producing a dim atmosphere (Tso 1998, Opell 2001). This particular “neighborhood” provides them with a list of advantages. An example of a temperate forest where a Cyclosa would resideThe perks of this area include hiding and camouflaging them from predators (Tso 1998) such as bats and birds (Kervyn et al. 2012), and giving them the upper hand when capturing prey due to their concealment (Tso 1998). As mentioned above, the increased sunlight and foliage present in the understory of forest edges explains the attraction of Cyclosa to those areas. The other “neighborhood” that the Cyclosa and other orb-weaving spiders tend to inhabit is the tree crown (Korenko et al. 2011). This particular area is consisted of all the branches, leaves, etc. that are located above ground, also known as the top of the tree (Merriam-Webster Dictionary 2014). The tree crown also has many positive characteristics as a home also. Within the crown there is a plethora of different mini habitats, or microhabitats, that include their own unique food sources and climates for the spider to choose from (Korenko et al. 2011). Also, the possibilities of locations to attach webs and hide from predation threats increase the attractiveness of this particular location to spiders in general (Korenko et al. 2011). The type of tree crowns that Stanislav Korenko found orb-weaving spiders (Cyclosa) to create their webs on most often were deciduous species such as Alnus glutinosa (a type of birch tree) (Defenders of Wildlife n.d.)and Quercus petraea (a type of oak tree) (2011) that are prevalent in temperate forests (University of California Museum of Paleontology n.d.). Another organism within the Angelo Reserve that favors habitats near oak trees is the Columbian Blacktailed Deer,what a popular place! These are all reasons why the edges of temperate forests throughout the world make a pristine orb-weaving spider’s paradise.

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An example of a Quercus petraea tree where Cyclosa build webs 

An example of an Alnus glutinosa tree that a Cyclosa builds its web on