Jan 2, 2017 | By Tess

What has eight legs, many eyes, and can hear you coming? Apparently a jumping spider! Researchers from Cornell University have discovered that jumping spiders, long thought to have no hearing faculties, can actually sense sounds through the hairs on their legs called trichobothria. The discovery was made in part thanks to a 3D printed contraption that held the spider in place for experiments.

The team of researchers, consisting of professor of neurobiology and behavior Ron Hoy, Paul Shamble, and Gil Menda, initially set out to study how the jumping spider species sees and reacts to what it sees but ended up discovering that they are actually capable of hearing. As Hoy explains in a video about the research, they made the realization as they were looking at brain activity monitors for the spider and noticed they were not only reacting to visual stimuli, but also their voices in the room.

If you’re wondering how the scientists were able to capture signals from the tiny spider’s brain (which measures about the size of a poppy seed), it may actually be the most impressive part of the research. Using a specially designed 3D printed contraption, the researchers were able to hold a jumping spider in place while they very carefully implanted tiny electrodes into the spider’s brain through a minuscule hole they created in its head.

With the electrodes in place, the researchers were able to clearly visualize the spider’s brain activity and responses to things in its line of vision and, as it turns, out, sounds within three meters of it. Up until now, scientists believed that spiders could not hear because their anatomies do not include ear drums, so when the jumping spider’s brain reacted to different sounds in the room around it, the researchers were understandably quite shocked.

Understandably, the research question was adapted to explore how and what the jumping spider could hear, and of course, how it could hear. “We are the first and only lab that has successfully and fully been able to tap into what the spider’s brain is listening to,” said Hoy.

After testing a number of sounds and different frequencies, it became apparent that the spider was reacting specifically to sounds within a close range of 90 Hz. This begged the question of why? “All the team sat there together and we were thinking, ‘why are they so sensitive to those frequencies?’” explained Gil Menda, a postdoctoral researcher in Hoy’s lab. It did not take them very long to realize that 90 Hz is about the same frequency as a parasitic wasp’s wing beat. The wasps, if you haven’t already guessed, prey on jumping spiders.

In their experiments, the researchers noted that about 80% of the jumping spiders they tested froze when a 90 Hz frequency was played, a typical safety mechanism to remain undetected. As they explain, it is likely that the spiders are sensing the acoustic signals through trichobothria, the fine hairs on their legs. After testing jumping spiders, Menda and his team have also found evidence of sound recognition in other spider species, including fishing spiders, wolf spiders, netcasting spiders, and even house spiders.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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Bob Loblaw wrote at 1/2/2017 9:21:36 PM:

Yes, spiders can I hear, but they NEVER LISTEN. I could've told you that. Why is anyone even paying these guys?

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