The study shows just how little we have known about how spiders perceive the world.
Spiders are not everyone’s cup of tea especially if you clock one from across the room. But a new study has found that the arachnids are more aware of their surroundings than first thought.
A team of researchers at Cornell University were studying the brains of spiders and how they perceive vision, when they accidentally discovered their ability to ‘hear’. Jumping spiders are already known for their great eyesight and even that they are able to hear from close range but this new study has revealed a certain species of jumping spider called Phidippus audax is able to hear from over 10 feet away.
“The sensory world of the tiny jumping spider was thought to be dominated by sight and tactile touch,” researcher Paul Shamble said in a news release. “Surprisingly, we found that they also possess an acute sense of hearing. They can hear sounds at distances much farther away than previously thought, even though they lack ears with the eardrums typical of most animals with long-distance hearing.”
When we say ‘hear’ spiders don’t actually possess any ears but feel vibrations picked up through hairs on their legs. It was during the study that a chair squeak caused the team to witness something special in the spider’s brain. Using technology, the team were able to see neurons being fired off in certain areas of the brain showing that the spider reacted to the squeak from 10 feet away.
“The neurons started firing and he thought, oh, that’s kind of weird,” Shamble says. “It kept on happening. And after a while I was standing out in the main lab, more than 3 meters away from the spider, clapping, and it was still happening,” he says. “It was one of those strange moments, where it was like, based on what we know, this shouldn’t be happening, but it definitely is.”
The results tell us how little we really know about how these creatures perceive the world despite living among us for so long.
“It’s really exciting to realize that these creatures that have sort of lived next to us for as long as humans have been around, that there are these little mysteries that we didn’t really know about how they live and how they make their lives,” Shamble says.
Details of the study were published in the journal Current Biology.