Margaret Marshall, “O Cricket, Where Art Thou: Do Black Widow Spiders Remember the Site of Prey Capture in a Complex Web.”
Mentors: Rafael Rodríguez Sevilla & Clinton Sergi, Biological Sciences
Different animals form memories about varied aspects of their environment. There is evidence that web spiders form memories about the layout and content of their webs. However, most of this evidence comes from spiders that form two-dimensional webs. Here I analyzed the memory capability of Western Black Widow spiders, which build three-dimensional webs (consisting of a sheet and a forest of gum-footed lines). I tested the hypothesis that spiders form memories of the sites at which they have captured their prey. This hypothesis makes the prediction that spiders will predominantly search the sheet of their webs when looking for prey that was captured in the sheet, and that they will be more likely to search the gum-footed lines of their webs when looking for prey that was captured in a gum-footed line. I tested this prediction by offering prey to spiders in both the sheet and gum-footed lines of their webs, then experimentally removing the prey after the spiders had successfully captured the prey. The spiders in the control groups were either subject to damage to the web (equivalent to the damage spiders cause when removing prey from the web) or were given prey and left to consume it after capture. I will discuss the results in terms of spiders’ ability to form memories about the site of prey capture in relation to the structure of their web.
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