Friday, June 02, 2006

Even spiders are smart!

The new scientist magazine has yet more evidence that scientist's (and society as a whole's) assumption that animals don’t think is deeply flawed. Jumping spiders have been shown to spot prey remember them remember the strategies that are effective in hunting them (as learned from last time) including combinations of vibrations created by trial and error on their webs, determine pathways to get to those spiders even when they cant see them and utilize strategies like attacking from in front if they are carrying an egg sack or from behind or above if not.

This is an even lower species than the "chameleon" brown Anole (Anolis sagrei) which "Lizard expert" Ann Paterson has shown can recognize other lizards and adjust their aggression displays accordingly*.

Both of these animals utilize strategies that many people would deny mammals using despite these species evolving potentially hundreds of millions of years earlier. The new scientist itself refers to a raiding party of spider monkeys with awe, when a similar example of strategy was on TV the other night involving mere cats!

The bottom line is that animals are much smarter than we give them credit for - they just don’t always use that intelligence or at least not in human ways - not surprisingly. The central problem is that we assume animals can’t do thing until they prove the can - we obviously need to accept this will always create an underestimation of their abilities.

* Paterson, A. V., and S. McMann. 2004. Differential headbob displays toward neighbors and non-neighbors in the territorial lizard Anolis sagrei. Journal of Herpetology 38:288–291 - amongst many others


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