To the Mountaintops: Searching for the spruce-fir moss spider

To the Mountaintops: Searching for the spruce-fir moss spider


My name is Sue Cameron and I’m an endangered
species biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The spruce-fir moss spider is an endangered
species that lives at high elevations in the Southern Appalachians. It’s endemic to just
eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina and southwest Virginia, and it’s typically
found above 5400 feet in spruce-fir forests. As the name implies, it actually lives under
moss that is attached to a rock outcrop, so it lives at the interface of the moss and
the rock. And it lives, typically, in really cool and damp places, so it’s typically
shaded by fir trees on north-facing slopes on our highest mountain peaks. There are six metapopulations, that we know
about, of the spruce-fir moss spider. They exist on Grandfather Mountain, the Plott Balsams,
Roan Mountain, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Virginia Balsams, and the Black
Mountains. I’m Fred Coyle. I’m a retired biology
professor. Today we were attempting to collect a couple of specimens of spruce-fir moss spider
that Marshall Hedin can use to do a study of the, basically the genetic variation that
exists among all the metapopulations of Microhexura. The intention is to understand how closely
related these different metapopulations are to one another, how long have they been separated
in evolutionary time, and also to understand how much genetic variation exists within each
metapopulation, and to get an idea of how viable, or healthy, the populations might
be. My name is Marshall Hedin, I’m a professor
of biology at San Diego State University. It might ultimately mean that different genetic
populations might be acting as different species. We don’t really think that right now, but
the genetic health of a population is contingent on how much variation it carries. If it has
little variation, it can’t really adapt to change, if it has more variation it can.

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