October may be over, but it doesn’t mean the “spooks” have ended. When you’re alone at home, do you ever feel like someone is watching you? Do you feel that everything you do or say is being heard by a tiny creature hiding under your bed? If so, you may not be as paranoid and delusional as you think. According to a new study by researchers at Cornell University, jumping spiders have been discovered to have greater hearing than originally thought.
What’s interesting about this new discovery is how these spiders are able to have such great hearing. Unlike most animals with long distance hearing, spiders lack eardrums. Animals with eardrums pick up pressure waves to detect sound. Spiders, however, “are able to ‘hear’ because they have ‘specialized hairs that pick up the actual particle movement,’” says NPR.
The researchers at Cornell University actually discovered this by accident. According to Paul Shamble, an arachnologist, he and a group of other researchers were performing studies on a jumping spider’s brain and how it perceives vision. While performing the experiment, Gil Menda, one of the researchers, created a loud squeaking sound when as he backed his chair.
According to researchgate.net, Paul Shamble said, “As he moved away from the spider, his chair squeaked across the floor of the lab. The way we do neural recordings, we set up a speaker so that you can hear when neurons fire–they make this really distinct ‘pop’ sound–and when Gil’s chair squeaked, the neuron we were recording from started popping. He did it again, and the neuron fired again.”
He and the rest of the researchers continued to test how far the spider could hear a noise and were stunned to find out the spider’s neurons were reacting to noises that were over five meters away from it.
Neurons weren’t the only reaction that occurred, however. The spiders would also often “freeze” in place when hearing a low-frequency sound, which is most likely an anti-predator response. Shamble believes that this is something that all spiders can do, not just jumping spiders.
Before this discovery, we thought spiders could only hear from a short distance. Knowing that these spiders have better hearing than we have previously thought changes how we thought they perceived the world. These spiders are all ears when you’re at home, so think twice before insulting them. They may express their opinion about you one day.