Spiders in a digital world (#639)
Jumping spiders (Salticidae) have been a model species for the study of predatory behaviour, decision making, and vision from as early as the mid nineteen hundreds. Being highly visual animals, they respond readily to images on screens. For the past 15 years, our lab has used a simple setup consisting of a projector, a small screen and computer generated images to display realistic, unrealistic and augmented reality stimuli to salticids. Using these inexpensive tools we have investigated salticid decision making, predatory preferences and stimulus recognition processes. The power of this approach can be exemplified by our demonstration that that the appearance of a mosquito's antennae alone influences the prey-choice decisions of the mosquito eating salticid E. culicivora. We have also found that this spider uses a local processing approach rather than a holistic or gestalt approach for object recognition. These analyses could only have been achieved by the use of digital media. While these experiments don’t make use of virtual reality, this work demonstrates how profound questions can be answered using simple and economical tools readily available, without the need for high-tech equipment.