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The Love Song of J.Alfred Wolfspider

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Edited by Richard Walker, Wednesday, 27 May 2015, 02:01

Some kinds of spider can communicate with others of their species (for threat or courtship) by vibrations, as I've tried to sketch in Fig 1 below.

However they can't, as far as I know, hear sound that is carried through the air, in the way many land dwelling animals do.

But research suggests one spider does use sound indirectly, in a way that reminds me a bit of the "baked bean tin telephone'.

You may know this, but if not, the idea of this improvised communication device is you get two empty tin cans, punch a small hole through the base of each, and then use a string knotted at both ends to connect the cans. The cans are held so the string is tight and then one person holds their can to their mouth, the person at the other end holds their can to their ear. When the first person speaks quietly, the listener can hear them, even over some distance.

This works because sound at one end is converted into vibrations in the string and at the receiving end the tin can resonates, and the vibration becomes audible sound again.

The "purring wolf spider" reverses the baked bean tin trick. One spider stands on a leaf (I think it needs to be dead so it will rustle) and generates vibrations, and vibrating the dry leaf produces sound (which is audible to humans).

The sound causes nearby leaves to resonate in sympathy, and a spider standing on one will feel the vibrations, Fig 2.

Where does Prufrock come in? Well it seems the female spiders on their leaves are the most responsive to the sound and so it may be a courtship song.

Learn more here.



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