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Jumping Spider Hearing

October 14, 2016

Scientists discover that a spider renowned for its sharp vision can also hear with its hair.

Transcript

Dil Menda and Hoy Lab Cornell

Jumping spider. (Gil Menda and the Hoy Lab/Cornell Univesity)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Sharp-eared spiders. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Jumping spiders have incredible vision that lets them pounce on distant prey, but were thought to be nearly deaf. Cornell University entomologist Ronald Hoy and his colleagues were looking for spider vision neurons using tiny brain electrodes. Then, a grad student accidentally moved his chair, making sounds.

RONALD HOY (Cornell University):

And amazingly enough, some of these neurons talked back, they chattered back, when they heard these sounds.

HIRSHON:

The team reports in Current Biology that the spiders hear using sensory hairs on their legs that are especially sensitive to the low buzzing sound made by their enemy, a kind of predatory wasp. Jumping spiders’ complex sensory abilities, orchestrated by such a tiny brain, are of great interest to biologists, as well as engineers hoping to imitate the spiders’ prowess. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon