reply to post by Lonewulph
Hiya, I started a thread without seeing yours...I'm glad I've never told a member to 'use the search function!'
Kneel Before My Spidery Majesty and Cower!!
A spider has been discovered in the Peruvian Amazon that makes a dummy spider and then hides out of sight whilst plucking the threads to make it
dance. It's a little bit like a performer with a puppet on strings.
Clever little killer
The discoverer is an entomology graduate, Phil Torres
, and you can read more about it
here at Wired
here on his blog.
From afar, it appears to be a medium sized spider about an inch across, possibly dead and dried out, hanging in the center of a spider web along
the side of the trail. Nothing too out of the ordinary for the Amazon. As you approach, the spider starts to wobble quickly forward and back, letting
you know this spider is, in fact, alive.
Step in even closer and things start to get weird- that spider form you were looking at is actually made up of tiny bits of leaf, debris, and dead
insects. The confusion sets in. How can something be constructed to look like a spider, how is it moving, and what kind of creature made
Before I bore you all with my thoughts, it's fair to say that until specimens are shipped back and studied, the critters remain 'unofficial.'
Torres thinks the giant spider decoy is there to dissuade predators like birds and he's the entomologist so who the heck am I to argue?! Thing is,
wouldn't a large , moving spider scare away the prey as well as the predators? Maybe it's there to attract
a spider-eater not repel
What strikes me with these tiny (5mm) critters is the question of how on earth they became so instrumental on their environment? Web-building can be
traced back for
millions of years
and yet creating these dummies seems more novel and makes me wonder about their capacity for thought. Now I'm not suggesting they sit around
scratching their little spider chins and coming up with Wily Coyote master-plans. Rather, I wonder at what point a spider accidentally formed
something spidery-looking from web-trash and then saw the benefit of repeating the accident?
Isn't there some inferred thought-process that runs along the lines of 2+2 = ???
How about backwards? I mean, if the accident of spider-shaped debris was successful, wouldn't the single spider have to recognise the success and
then think back about what it had done to repeat it? And then, the other spiders would have to evaluate the success and repeat it by copying too.
So I had a quick look at how many neurons a spider could be packing to compare it to some other clever critter and see how smart they could be.
Spiders that hunt spiders are the sinister geeks of the bug-world and pack much more capacity for intelligence than their couch-potato, web-lurking
cousins. So we find a smart-ass jumping spider
with ~600 000 neurons.
More than ants
fewer than a honey bee
although all three are examples of complex behaviours.
As ever, it's never so simple as matching number of neurons to intelligence or levels of complex behaviour – they can only be suggestive and rarely
final. So we have a whale brain with ~200 billion neurons
human counterparts with only ~85 billion
in comparison. We
could argue over which is the more intelligent...
Anyway, I'm drifting away from my point here....sentience!! Over the years we've seen humans as the single
gold-medalist on a podium of its own. God's glorious creation or evolution's
pinnacle! Slowly but surely we've given silver medals to primates (oragutan right >), monkeys and elephants. Now we've tossed a few bronzes to the
smarter birds too.
To me this implies there is some sort of scale at play. We'd likely expect the sentient awareness of a bonobo
to be a lot less than ours. Maybe less 'clear' or somehow not as bright? So I wonder at what level of brightness a spider's awareness of its
world might be? Bright enough to copy the behaviour of others and smart enough to repeat an action that has a positive outcome?
Some would argue that natural selection created the rules and these 8-legged scuttlers and bedroom terrorists are just machines following a basic
code. However I'm not as sure about the weight of the role of natural selection in this case. It's suggestive of learned behaviour and that points a
finger at some dull flicker of self-awareness.