While shifts in organismal biology stemming from climate change are receiving increased attention, we know relatively little about how organisms respond to other forms of anthropogenic disturbance. The urban heat island (UHI) effect describes the capture of heat by built structures (e.g. asphalt), resulting in elevated urban temperatures. The UHI is a well-studied phenomenon, but only a handful of studies have investigated trait-based shifts resulting from the UHI, and even fewer have attempted to quantify the magnitude of the UHI experienced at the microclimate scale. Here, using a common urban exploiter, the Western black widow spider (Latrodectus hesperus), we show that the UHI experienced by spiders in July in their urban Phoenix, AZ refuges is 6◦C hotter (33◦C) than conditions in the refuges of spiders from Sonoran Desert habitat outside of Phoenix’s development (27◦C). We then use this field microclimate UHI estimate to compare the development speed, mass gain and mortality of replicate siblings from 36 urban lineages reared at ‘urban’ and ‘desert’ temperatures. We show that extreme heat is slowing the growth of spiderlings and increasing mortality. In contrast, we show that development of male spiders to their penultimate moult is accelerated by 2 weeks. Lastly, in terms of behavioral shifts, UHI temperatures caused late-stage juvenile male spiders to heighten their foraging voracity and late-stage juvenile female spiders to curtail their web-building behavior. Trait-based approaches like the one presented herein help us better understand the mechanisms that lead to the explosive population growth of urban (sometimes invasive) species, possibly at the expense of urban biodiversity. Studies of organismal responses to the present day UHI can be used as informative surrogates that help us grasp the impact that projected climate change will have on biodiversity.
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