Scientists at Oregon State University wanted to find out exactly how spiders sense the vibration in the webs when insects land on them and how they detect where that insect has landed. To do this they built a web out of two different kinds of rope, just as spiders use two different kinds of silk, and placed on in an octagonal frame, to which a speaker was strapped to deliver different vibrations. They then placed an artificial spider in the center that has flexible legs to show how a real spider would detect the vibrations. They thought that they would find that by shaking one of the radial lines the spider would feel that lines more than the others and thus attack in that direction. However, they discovered that it is much more complex than that.
They found that different frequencies caused complex vibration patterns affecting many strands of the web. Different frequencies also caused certain strands to stay completely still. The researchers hypothesized that these different frequencies might reflect different insects landing on the web. This means that spiders can’t simply rely on one strand vibrating to lead them to their prey. They must understand how different frequencies affect the web structure in order to know which direction to attack. It turns out that spiders might just be a bit more sophisticated in their hunting techniques than we previously thought.
How do you think spiders learn to understand the different frequencies made by their webs? Is it a case of trial and error or are they taught this?