Arachnids hear airborne sounds over greater distances than thought
G. Menda, Hoy Lab at Cornell
Accidental chair squeaks in a lab have tipped off researchers to a new world of eavesdroppers.
Spiders don’t have eardrums, though their exquisitely sensitive leg hairs pick up vibrations humming through solids like web silk and leaves. Biologists thought that any airborne sounds more than a few centimeters away would be inaudible. But the first recordings of auditory nerve cells firing inside a spider brain suggest that the tiny Phidippus audax jumping spider can pick up airborne sounds from at least three meters away, says Ronald Hoy of Cornell University.
During early sessions of brain recordings, Hoy’s colleagues saw bursts of nerve cell, or neuron, activity when a chair moved. Systematic experiments then showed that from several meters away, spiders were able to detect relatively quiet tones at levels