Questions for “See the world through a jumping spider’s eyes — and other senses”

close-up of a jumping spider, with hairy legs, a hairy body, and four eyes

Jumping spiders have an exceptional way of sensing the world. While their two primary, front-facing eyes offer high-resolution color vision, side eyes give black-and-white vision that extends even to the area behind them. And their feet? They taste as they walk.



To accompany feature “See the world through a jumping spider’s eyes — and other senses


Before Reading:

1.  List as many ways as you can in which spiders differ from mammals.

2.  What are the primary senses your body uses for picking up cues about the world around you?

During Reading:

1.  How many species of jumping spiders are known to science?

2.  How many eyes does a jumping spider have? Are they like those in insects such as bees? How do some of those eyes differ in their function so that they can help a spider see?

3.  How does a jumping spider’s vision compare to that of other spiders? According to the story, how does it compare to the clarity of human vision?

4.  How did Elizabeth Jakob study the role of peripheral vision in jumping spiders using a video?

5.  In that study, how did the spider’s principal gaze respond to a shrinking black oval? How did it respond to an expanding black oval? What did Jakob’s team interpret those responses to mean?

6.  What are at least two ways in which color vision differs in humans and in the jumping spiders that Nathan Morehouse studied?

7.  What did Morehouse learn about the role of different types of eyes in jumping-spiders when it comes to male looking to woo a female?

8.  Damian Elias used a laser vibrometer in studying jumping spiders? What does that instrument do? What surprise about the spiders did he uncover using this tool?

9.  Besides a sense of touch, what other sensory information can the feet of a jumping spider perceive?

10. In a new study, what unusual sensory trait did Lisa Taylor’s team turn up in the feet of male H. pyrrithrix spiders? How might this help them?

After Reading:

1.  Only a small share of a jumping spider’s visual field is in color. Why might that not be a bad thing? Hint: Consider the issue of “attentional bias.” (You can read more about attentional bias that here.)

2.  Elizabeth Jakob and her colleagues studied the role of a jumping spider’s first set of secondary eyes and how they can “inform” the brain about when it might need to change the focus of the spider’s primary eyes? What do you think the role of the spider’s additional four eyes might be? Imagine how you might design a study to test that hypothesis. Draw upon what you learned in this story to describe how you or even spider experts might try to carry out such a study.

3.  Before reading the story, how did you feel about spiders? Were they interesting? Scary? Puzzling? Clever? None of the above? After reading the story, in what way had your appreciation for these critters changed, if at all?