Meet Portia
December 28, 2014 6:18 PM   Subscribe

Portia is a jumping spider that eats other spiders, through complex layers[PDF] of visual recognition and planned, trial-and-error[PDF, html] movement, even losing sight of it's target. How does a hunter get to be smarter than the prey, while having the same number of neurons, not even as many as a honeybee? Well, that's the interesting part ... posted by the man of twists and turns (7 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
Araneophagic jumping spiders discriminate between detour routes that do and do not lead to prey
In a laboratory study, 12 different experimental set-ups were used to examine the ability of Portia fimbriata, a web-invading araneophagic jumping spider from Queensland, Australia, to choose between two detour paths, only one of which led to a lure (a dead, dried spider). Regardless of set-up, the spider could see the lure when on the starting platform of the apparatus, but not after leaving the starting platform. The spider consistently chose the ‘correct route’ (the route that led to the lure) more often than the ‘wrong route’ (the route that did not lead to the lure). In these tests, the spider was able to make detours that required walking about 180) away from the lure and walking past where the incorrect route began. There was also a pronounced relationship between time of day when tests were carried out and the spider’s tendency to choose a route. Furthermore, those spiders that chose the wrong route abandoned the detour more frequently than those that chose the correct route, despite both groups being unable to see the lure when the decision was made to abandon the detour.
Reliance on trial and error signal derivation by Portia africana, an araneophagic jumping spider from East Africa
All species from the jumping spider (Salticidae) genus Portia appear to be predators that specialize at preying on other spiders by invading webs and, through aggressive mimicry, gaining dynamic fine control over the resident spider’s behavior. From previous research, there is evidence that P. fimbriata, P. labiata and P. schultzi derive signals by trial and error. Here, we demonstrate that P. africana is another species that uses a trial and error, or generate and test, algorithm when deriving the aggressive-mimicry signals that will be appropriate in different predator–prey encounters. We discuss the implications of these new findings and the findings from previous work in order to understand the selection factors that drive the evolution of flexibility in aggressive-mimicry strategies.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:38 PM on December 28, 2014 [12 favorites]

Awesome, and satisfying the "I need to learn more about Portia" itch that has been in the back of my head every since reading Echopraxia.
posted by blahblahblah at 8:12 PM on December 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Jumping spiders are the cutest spiders. This is a fact.
posted by Ferreous at 8:23 PM on December 28, 2014 [9 favorites]

This was actually a plot point in Peter Watts's latest novel Echopraxia.
posted by cthuljew at 10:24 PM on December 28, 2014

Or what blahblahblah said.
posted by cthuljew at 10:25 PM on December 28, 2014

From multiple angles -- SAT solving, deep learning, and biology -- we're learning quite a bit about learning.

It's simpler and stranger than we thought.
posted by effugas at 11:29 PM on December 28, 2014

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