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Spiders have a Spiderman-like spidey sense

November 9, 2016

The jumping spider has eight eyes but no ears, yet scientists have discovered that the members of the arachnid family can hear. How is that possible?

The discovery was made by accident. Scientists had been using a special tool to measure the jumping spider’s brain activity. The machine made a sound when the spider’s neurons — cells in the brain — were active.

One day a scientist’s chair squeaked as he slid across the floor and the machine made a noise. Confused, the scientists repeated the chair squeak and the machine sounded off again. Backing up as far as 15 feet and clapping the machine still made the noise.

Based on everything the scientists thought they knew, that shouldn’t have been possible. Previously scientists thought spiders could only hear things very close to them.

So how was the spider hearing the chair squeak if it doesn’t have ears? The jumping spider has hairy legs. Some of these fine hairs move back and forth when there is a loud noise. The jumping spider probably uses this sense of hearing to listen for a type of wasp that eats jumping spiders.

The researchers are experimenting with fishing spiders and wolf spiders, along with others, to see if they can detect sound in the same way.

The discovery has changed the scientists’ view on the world of spiders.

“In the movies, Spiderman has this strange, additional ‘spidey sense’ that helps him sense danger — it turns out the real-life spidey sense of spiders might actually be hearing!” said Gil Menda, one of the scientists.

Everybody sing! “Spiderman, Spiderman, does whatever a spider can. Spins a web, any size. Catches thieves, just like flies. Look out! Here comes the Spiderman! …”

— Brett French, Gazette Outdoors editor