Spiders show their brainy side at UWM

UW-Milwaukee biologist Rafa Rodriguez and doctoral students Clint Sergi and Joey Kilmer aren’t afraid to get up close and personal with black widow spiders. Rodriguez, who researches the cognitive abilities of arthropods’ miniature brains, says spiders don’t see well, so they usually manage their world by detecting vibrations coming from their webs. But his team has evidence that spiders also make mental maps of their webs, and about 50 percent of the time, spiders rely on memory before vibrations.

The UWM researchers experimented by switching spiders from one web to another. What they found was half the spiders would search around for up to a full minute and ignore prey on the web, distracted by the mismatch between their memory of the web and its actual layout.

So … anyone in the market for a study buddy?