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Scientific American: Baby jumping spiders see surprisingly well

UC biologists found that baby spiders have vision nearly as good as their parents

Biologists at the University of Cincinnati have demonstrated that baby jumping spiders have vision nearly as good as their parents.

It's an understandable adaptation for a predator that hunts for a living. But until now, scientists weren't sure how they managed it.

Elke Buschbeck in her office.

UC biology professor Elke Buschbeck. Photo/Ravenna Rutledge/UC Creative Services

Scientific American spoke to UC associate professor Nathan Morehouse about how baby spiders fit the architecture of their keen vision into such a tiny package. Morehouse, UC biology professor Elke Buschbeck and Morehouse's former student at the University of Pittsburgh, John Thomas Gote, co-authored a study that appeared in the journal Vision Research.

Morehouse and Buschbeck used her custom-made micro-ophthalmoscope to examine the eyes of baby spiders. They found that the baby spiders have the same number of photoreceptors as adults but packed differently to fit in a smaller volume.

Morehouse is using a National Science Foundation grant to study spider vision around the world. He traveled to Singapore with an international team of researchers earlier this year.

"Even arachnophobic people find these little jumping spiders to be compelling – they dance, they sing vibratory songs to each other,” Morehouse told the magazine.

Nathan Morehouse's face is reflected in the red glow of a computer screen showing the photoreceptors of spiders.

UC biologist Nathan Morehouse uses microspectrophotometry in his lab to measure how photoreceptor cells in spiders absorb light. Photo/Jay Yocis/UC Creative Services

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