In the mind of a spider

В ума на паяк

Adult female E. culicivora feeding on a blood mosquito (A. gambiae ss) taken approximately 10 minutes after the mosquito finished feeding on blood. Pay attention to the bright red belly of the mosquito. credit: Behavior of animals (2022). DOI: 10.1016 / j.anbehav.2022.04.003

For a creature that – feet and everything else – could be no bigger than a pencil eraser, spiders continue to amaze researchers with their cognitive abilities.

Lisa Taylor, an entomologist at the University of Florida, has spent her career studying arachnids. She says understanding how spiders think is just one of the unknowns that drives her research.

“They are such small animals, with even smaller brains, and ah sensor system which we don’t quite understand, “she said.

This curiosity prompted Taylor and two international collaborators – Fiona Cross of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and Robert Jackson of the International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology in Kenya – to study the dietary preferences of an East African jumping spider scientifically known as Evarcha culvora. . Their findings were recently published in the journal Behavior of animals.

“My collaborators spent years watching these spiders in the field and noticed that they feed almost exclusively on mosquitoes,” said Taylor, a research associate in the Department of Entomology and Nematology at UF / IFAS. “This is not something that is typical of all spiders – to specialize in one type of prey.”

While observing the behavior of spiders, another trend emerged: spiders seem to track mosquitoes and target those with bright red bellies, a signal sign (at least for humans) of a recently fed mosquito.

For the experiment, conducted in Kenya, researchers provided mosquitoes or painted red sugar water– Which made their bellies mimic the recent bloody diet – or gray sugar colored water to represent bloodless mosquitoes. They strongly preferred red bellies mosquitoes.

“They also didn’t have the smell of blood to rely on for their decisions,” Taylor said. “The use of sugar water meant that the smell was not a factor spiders to choose their prey. “

In the long run, Taylor said, such research could help inform issues such as mosquito control. But in the short term, she adds, it’s just another piece of the puzzle to study spiders.

“It’s a localized example, but it’s a good research system that helps us understand how animals can make decisions with really small brains and a completely different sensory system than ours,” Taylor said. “It simply came to our notice then natural world. ”


Terminators of mosquitoes and vampire spiders


More information:
Lisa A. Taylor et al, Blood-red color as a sign of choice for prey for mosquito predators, Behavior of animals (2022). DOI: 10.1016 / j.anbehav.2022.04.003

Quote: Inside the mind of a spider (2022, May 12), retrieved on May 13, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-05-mind-spider.html

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