Jumping spiders have the highest spatial resolution vision of any terrestrial invertebrate, unparalleled by any animals their size. This fact, fascinating on its own, is made even more surprising when one considers that most spiders outside this family hardly rely on vision at all. Jumping spiders are diurnal hunters, and it is has been proposed that prey capture may be a major force in the evolution and maintenance of their incredible eyes. Moreover, jumping spiders are known to communicate with vibrations through the substrate they are standing on, yet it is not yet known if and how this sense is used in capturing prey.
How do jumping spiders find and catch their prey? How do different sensory abilities interact to help these spiders accomplish this critical task? Does the answer depend on exactly what they are hunting? In this project we will seek to address these very questions. By fall we will have finished conducting experiments in which we took videos of jumping spiders in an arena with a prey item in which three variables were manipulated:
1) The prey was either a cricket or a fly.
2) The substrate either did or did not conduct vibrations.
3) The lighting in the arena was either bright or very dim.
For this SPUR project we will analyze these videos to find the answers to the questions posed above. We will quantify the performance of each spider and see how it depends upon the manipulated variables, as well as on the behavior of each individual prey animal. Furthemore, we will attempt to characterize the different movement types of each prey species to determine what effect this has on the sensory environment necessary to catch this animal.
The undergraduates will assist me (Benji Kessler) in analyzing videos of behavioral data. This will involve watching videos and marking which specific behaviors occured when. The students will receive mentorship in the use of the software designed to collect these data, as well as the statistical methods used to analyze it.
Undergraduates should be dependable, independent, and enthusiastic. An interest in watching spiders eat things is a must.