Animal minds Convergent evolution Intelligent Design

Researchers: Spiders use the same cues as vertebrates in distinguishing living vs. non-living things

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The researchers actually put jumping spiders on a treadmill:

To investigate this phenomenon in invertebrates for the first time, researchers partially restrained 60 wild-caught jumping spiders (Menemerus semilimbatus) on a spherical treadmill and used a computer screen to show point-light displays on each side of their peripheral vision (only visible to their lateral eyes). They found that spiders were more likely to try to turn and face displays that showed random movements, compared to those that moved in a more biological way, with the distances between joints constrained.

The result seems contrary to the expectation that spiders should focus their attention on objects in their surroundings that appear to be living — potential prey, mate or predator. However, the authors suggest that this behavior may allow the spiders to focus their forward-facing primary eyes on unidentifiable objects to get a better look. Complex vision evolved independently in vertebrates and arthropods and so the ability to distinguish living from non-living motion using the relative positioning of the joints has most likely arisen convergently in the two groups of animals.

“Jumping spiders’ secondary eyes confirm themselves to be a marvelous tool,” the researchers add. “In this experiment, we observed how they alone can tell apart living from non-living organisms, using the semi-rigid pattern of motion that characterize the formers and without the aid of any shape cue. Finding the presence of this skill, previously known only in vertebrates, opens up new and exciting perspectives on the evolution of visual perception. My co-authors and I can’t wait to see what other visual cues can be perceived and understood by these tiny creatures.”

PLOS, “How spiders distinguish living from non-living using motion-based visual cues” at ScienceDaily

In other words, convergent evolution means that the spiders achieve the same goals as vertebrates by different means, with no slow plod up the Darwinian tree of life.

The paper is open access.

See also: In what ways are spiders intelligent?

4 Replies to “Researchers: Spiders use the same cues as vertebrates in distinguishing living vs. non-living things

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    Interesting, but not exactly life vs non-life. Joints are characteristic of arthropods and vertebrates. Unjointed movement is typical of many animals in the size range of spiders. Nematodes, annelids, tardigrades, mollusks. Spiders are more interested in eating arthropods.

  2. 2

    Seems to me that if the spiders had turned to the coordinated movement screen, they would have concluded the exact same result. So no matter what the spider does, they have the canned answer. How would anyone know what the turning motion of a spider means?

  3. 3
    ET says:

    It was a slow plod up a different branch using similar solutions. Unfortunately there aren’t any vision-building genes, just genes that provide the coding for the raw materials used in building vison systems. Genes just determine if the vision system will develop properly or not.

  4. 4
    martin_r says:

    talking about spiders,

    this particular spider species is an engineering masterpiece (it is more skilled than most people, definitely more skilled than Seversky, JVL & other Darwinian clowns who are trying to convince us, that this engineering masterpiece arose by unguided natural process, with no foresight, that no knowledge, math, material science was needed )

    BBC Video (4 minutes long, you have to watch the full video, otherwise you won’t understand )

    “Spider Shoots Web 25 Metres Long!” (25 meters = 82 feet)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlRkwuAcUd4

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