Scientists make shocking spider discovery

A new finding about the spider world could totally change how we think about arachnids.

There may be a whole lot more to our eight-legged friends than meets the eye, based on a new discovery that completely changes how scientists understand spiders. Scientists have found that spiders can hear you from a lot farther away than had previously been thought.

While scientists have always known that spiders have some ability to hear, it was thought that there range was limited to just a few feet, and that they rely mostly on visuals and vibrations. But the new study suggests that a species of jumping spider, Phidippus audax, may be able to hear sounds from up to 10 feet away, according to a Cell Press statement.

Spiders don’t have ears in the traditional sense, which on mammals detect changes in air pressure and then the brain converts them into sound, but they can pick up movements in the air with sensory hairs that cover their bodies. Originally, scientists thought their maximum range was three feet, but it appears to be more than triple that.

“The sensory world of the tiny jumping spider was thought to be dominated by sight and tactile touch,” says Paul Shamble, who conducted the work along with colleagues in Ron Hoy’s lab at Cornell University and has since moved to Harvard, according to the statement. “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.

“One day, Gil was setting up one of these experiments and started recording from an area deeper in the brain than we usually focused on,” Shamble recalls. “As he moved away from the spider, his chair squeaked across the floor of the lab. The way we do neural recordings, we set up a speaker so that you can hear when neurons fire–they make this really distinct ‘pop’ sound–and when Gil’s chair squeaked, the neuron we were recording from started popping. He did it again, and the neuron fired again.”

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