Animal minds Intelligent Design Neuroscience

How can spiders be so smart?

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Even animal life forms don’t seem to obey materialist brain rules:

Recent research has shed light on the intriguing strategies that spiders use to deceive other spiders — and prey in general

But, as Mason goes on to report, jumping spiders, for example, can show very clever hunting behavior. One group of jumping spiders, Portia, lures female spiders of another species (Eurytattus) to their deaths by mimicking the way a courting male spider shakes her nest and then attacking. They also attack web-building spiders by mimicking the tug on the web of a trapped insect, adjusting its tug to the size of the spider it plans to devour. More remarkably,

Denyse O’Leary, “Spiders are smart; be glad they are small” at Mind Matters News

If these strategies don’t work on a particular web spider, another of Portia’s tricks is to shake the whole web so it moves as if a gust of wind had hit it. This acts as a smokescreen for the vibration Portia makes as it crawls into the target spider’s web. In laboratory experiments, Jackson found that Portia will try different plucking methods, speeds and patterns until it finds just the right combination to fool each individual web spider it hunts — essentially learning on the job.

Betsy Mason, “Spiders are much smarter than you think” at Knowable Magazine (October 28, 2021)


Takehome: Invertebrates like spiders and octopuses can be smarter than we used to think and we are only beginning to discover their many strategies. But the information coming to light doesn’t coincide with what our theories about brain size and warm- vs. cold-bloodedness would have prompted us to think.

You may also wish to read: In what ways are spiders intelligent? The ability to perform simple cognitive functions does not appear to depend on the vertebrate brain as such.


How do insects use their very small brains to think clearly? How do they engage in complex behavior with only 100,000 to a million neurons? Researchers are finding that insects have a number of strategies for making the most of comparatively few neurons to enable complex behavior. (Denyse O’Leary)

2 Replies to “How can spiders be so smart?

  1. 1
    polistra says:


    Incidentally, this blows out the usual “energy expenditure” rationale for “evolution”. There are plenty of insects and spiders available for the grabbing, without any of this elaborate learning and adaptation. The energy to nutrition ratio for these tricks is high.

    We have to assume that the adaptive skills are MORE ENJOYABLE than just waiting for a big dumb bug to blunder into the web. Nature wants us to learn, so learning is pleasurable.

  2. 2
    Querius says:

    Amazing indeed!

    “These behaviors suggest problem solving intelligence.”

    Or programming to create “fixed action patterns.”

    “It’s possible the Portia can plan.”

    It’s also possible that Portia can perform multivariate analysis. Anything is “possible”, especially when researchers are have no idea but cannot accept intelligently programmed behaviors as a possibility.


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