Fiona Cross | Spider Cognition: Insights from Miniature Brains
Jumping spiders (family Salticidae) have unique, complex eyes and a capacity for spatial vision exceeding that for any other animals of similar size. Most salticid species prey on insects but some species from a subfamily, Spartaeinae, are known to express an active preference for other spiders as prey (‘araneophagy’). We can gain important insights into animal cognition by exploring how these species use strategies for targeting this dangerous type of prey. For instance, studies using expectancy violation methods have shown that one of these spartaeine species, Portia africana, works with representations of different types of prey spiders. It also plans detours for reaching vantage points for capturing prey, and can decide ahead of time whether a detour is necessary. Moreover, new expectancy-violation experiments have shown that Portia africana represents the number of prey in a scene; P. africana becomes less inclined to complete a detour path if it encounters a different number of prey from what it had seen beforehand.