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Nature & Environment

Are spiders capable of keeping count ?

By T.K. Randall
January 29, 2015 · Comment icon 15 comments

A golden orb-web spider in its web. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Bernard Gagnon
Scientists believe that golden orb-web spiders may be able to count how many insects they've caught.
The golden orb-web is a patient species that relies on sitting and waiting for prey to stumble in to its web. Over time this technique can build up a sizable stockpile of food but there is always the risk that other spiders will attempt to take advantage of this readily available food source by taking some of it for themselves.

To protect itself from thievery however the orb-web appears to have developed the unique ability to count how many items are missing from its web so that it can go out and look for them.
To study this behavior further researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee conducted an experiment to determine if the spider really was counting the number of items in its web or if it was simply detecting differences in the overall weight of the web's contents.

The results of their research suggested that the spiders seemed to be able to do both, making golden orb-webs one of only a few known species to possess a sense of numerosity.

"This is interesting because it suggests that brains of very different sizes and organizations can give animals this ability," said researcher Rafael Rodríguez.

Source: Wired | Comments (15)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #6 Posted by third_eye 10 years ago
I believe most if not all animals knows how to count ~ they just don't have any reason to, most of the time ~ ~
Comment icon #7 Posted by MyOtherAccount 10 years ago
I know they can count on me getting as far away from them as fast as I possibly can!
Comment icon #8 Posted by Taun 10 years ago
I wonder if it's really "counting", or they just know what their lair is supposed to look like - and suddenly it doesn't anymore...
Comment icon #9 Posted by bubblykiss 10 years ago
My arachnid accountant does a pretty decent job.
Comment icon #10 Posted by IceBorne 10 years ago
My beloved spiders surprise me even more.
Comment icon #11 Posted by Cruel_Cahal 10 years ago
"Okay, four people living in this house, lets kill human 1 tonight, and we will get the rest this weekend." You know... for someone like me, who has had arachnophobia for years, I think they actually do plot such things. Maybe I'm paranoid when it comes to spiders, but when one of them rappels down from the ceiling in the dead of night, while I'm on my computer with only the monitor light illuminating the room, and I see that silhouette two inches from my face just hanging there, I truly do think they are out to get me.
Comment icon #12 Posted by TheDarkerSide 10 years ago
They always seem much much bigger when you first spot one, once you have run out the room in panic, and you return to the room hiding behind your other half, they seem to have shrunk somewhat.
Comment icon #13 Posted by Big Jim 10 years ago
It shouldn't be surprising that anything with a brain can think. Even casual observance of animals, either in nature, on the farm or as pets, provides us with many instances of animals that think. I've known for years that dogs count the members of their pack. If the whole family is home and there's a sound at the door, the alarm is frightened and aggressive but if one of the family is out then a noise is reacted to with less panic and more anticipation, as if it might be the missing member returning. What puzzles me is how do animals know that other animals can see them? Merely perceiving the... [More]
Comment icon #14 Posted by Atuke 10 years ago
This article is great! Orb weavers are amazing, and in the late summer nights they make a new central web every night without disturbing their cache. About twenty years ago I found a gorgeous female Black and Yellow Argiope(an Orb Weaver)near my back porch. It was early fall and she was huge, especially with her abdomen full of summer insects and her enormous backup food storage. Long story short, I kept her alive until almost mid December. The frost should've killed her but every night after early October I would surround her huge web area with a sheet(to keep her warm and free from frost) an... [More]
Comment icon #15 Posted by Antilles 10 years ago
Can they calculate weight too? So they know how much weight is behind my foot as I step on them... HA! My thoughts exactly.

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