Advertising
Advertising

Scientists Find That Spiders Can Hear You From Across The Room

Scientists Find That Spiders Can Hear You From Across The Room

We all know them. Those 8-legged creepy, crawling terrors that send some of us running in fear for our lives – spiders. Spiders, the stuff of nightmares, just got more terrifying. Scientists have recently discovered that spiders can hear us from across the room, even if we can’t see them!

The Surprising Discovery

Scientists have known for quite some time that spiders have exceptional vision, particularly jumping spiders. They’ve even known that spiders are able to feel nearby vibrations. But, because they don’t have ears, scientists believed they couldn’t hear at all.

“The standard textbooks say that spiders are acutely sensitive to airborne vibrations from nearby sources, sounds about a body length or a few centimeters away. We have discovered that jumping spiders can hear things from much farther away than this,” says Gil Menda, co-researcher of Cornell University.

Advertising

This discovery actually happened by accident. The researchers were studying how spiders process visual information by making neural recordings of their brain activity. After taking a recording, Gil Menda moved his chair and it squeaked.

“The way we do neural recordings,” explains Paul Shamble, co-researcher, “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.”

Gil moved his chair again and the neuron popped again. Not convinced of what they were seeing, the two researchers started clapping. When the spider neurons responded, the researchers started moving farther away. They reached 5 meters away from the spider and the reaction continued.

Advertising

The two were amazed. “You thought they were just these little creatures of vibration and vision,” says Paul Shamble, “and now all of a sudden you realize that they can hear, too.”

The Research

Now that they knew spiders could hear, the team conducted additional research to figure out how. They tested spiders’ hearing by using both behavioral experiments and neural recordings. The behavioral experiments were done to determine the spiders’ reactions to sounds. The neural recordings were to determine which frequencies caused the spiders to respond.

According to the experiment, spiders are most sensitive to low-frequency sounds of between 80 and 130 hertz (Hz). This frequency is the same as that emitted by the wingbeats of parasitoid wasps, a predator of spiders. Spiders freeze when they hear this sound, an anti-predatory behavior.

Advertising

How Spiders Hear

If spiders don’t have ears, how is all of this even possible? Turns out, the hairs on their legs are sensitive to sound.

Previously, scientists believed these hairs were only able to detect airborne vibrations from just a few centimeters away. This new discovery has shown that spiders process the vibration into neural activity. In other words, spiders are not simply sensing vibrations, but rather hearing.

To test this, the researchers placed water on the spider’s legs in order to muffle the vibrations. The spider stopped firing auditory neurons, meaning the spider could no longer hear.

Advertising

Significance of the Finding

This research only involved jumping spiders, but follow-up studies show that they are not the only ones with this ability. Fishing spiders, wolf spiders, net-casting spiders, and house spiders are all able to hear. And since most spiders have hairy legs, it is likely that others can hear too.

Why does all of this matter? This finding could result in new technologies for people. In the future, devices such as hearing aids or microphones may include hairlike additions, resulting in improved performance.

As Menda says, “In the movies, Spiderman has this strange, additional ’spidey-sense’ that helps him sense danger—it turns out the real-life spidey-sense of spiders might actually be hearing!” Which is exactly what we need, spiders with actual spidey-senses.

Don’t let any of this worry you, though. If spiders are eavesdropping on our conversations, they can’t repeat anything they hear. It’s not like they have the ability to talk… or do they?

More by this author

Amber Pariona

EFL Teacher, Lifehack Writer, English/Spanish Translator, MPA

How to Know If You’re Really in Love or Not (Yes It Can Be Confusing) Why You and Your Partner Don’t Need to Speak the Same Love Language to Stay Together Why Worrying About Losing a Friend Is Unnecessary No.1 Relationship Killer: Your Good Intention to Advise Your Partner When They’re Upset Identify Your Attachment Style and Find Someone Who Fits Yours

Trending in Science

1Science Says Screaming Is Good For You 2Weighted Blanket for Anxiety and Insomnia: How to Make It Work 3Scientists Discover Why You Should Take Off Your Shoes Before Entering Your Home 4Science Says Piano Players’ Brains Are Very Different From Everybody Else’s 5This Is Why You Should Sleep on Your Left Side (Backed by Science)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Science Says Screaming Is Good For You

Science Says Screaming Is Good For You

There are many reasons why people might scream – they’re angry, scared, or in pain (or maybe they’re in a metal band!). Some might say that screaming is bad, but here’s why science says it’s good for you.

“For the first time in the history of psychology there is a way to access feelings, hidden away, in a safe way and thus to reduce human suffering. It is, in essence, the first science of psychotherapy.” — Dr. Arthur Janov

Primal Therapy

Dr. Arthur Janov invented Primal Therapy in the late 1960’s. It is a practice that allows the patient to face their repressed emotions from past trauma head on and let those emotions go. This treatment is intended to cure any mental illness the patient may have that surfaced from this past trauma. In most cases, Primal Therapy has lead Dr. Janov’s patients to scream towards the end of their session, though it was not part of the original procedure. During a group therapy session that was at a standstill, Dr. Janov says that one of his patients, a student he called Danny, told a story that inspired him to implement a technique that he never would have thought of on his own.

Advertising

How it Started

“During a lull in our group therapy session, he told us a story about a man named Ortiz who was currently doing an act on the London stage in which he paraded around in diapers drinking bottles of milk. Throughout his number, Ortiz is shouting, ‘Mommy! Daddy! Mommy! Daddy!’ at the top of his lungs. At the end of his act he vomits. Plastic bags are passed out, and the audience is requested to follow suit.”

It doesn’t end there, though. Dr. Janov said that his patient was quite fascinated with that story, and that alone moved him to suggest something even he believed to be a little elementary.

“I asked him to call out, ‘Mommy! Daddy!’ Danny refused, saying that he couldn’t see the sense in such a childish act, and frankly, neither could I. But I persisted, and finally, he gave in. As he began, he became noticeably upset. Suddenly he was writhing on the floor in agony. His breathing was rapid, spasmodic. ‘Mommy! Daddy!’ came out of his mouth almost involuntarily in loud screeches. He appeared to be in a coma or hypnotic state. The writhing gave way to small convulsions, and finally, he released a piercing, deathlike scream that rattled the walls of my office. The entire episode lasted only a few minutes, and neither Danny nor I had any idea what had happened. All he could say afterward was: ‘I made it! I don’t know what, but I can feel.’”

Delving deeper

Dr. Janov says he was baffled for months, but then he decided to experiment with another patient with the same method, which lead to a similar result as before. The patient started out calling “Mommy! Daddy!” then experienced convulsions, heavy breathing, and then eventually screamed. After the session, Dr. Janov says his patient was transformed and became “virtually another human being. He became alert… he seemed to understand himself.”

Although the initial intention of this particular practice wasn’t to get the patient to scream, more than once did his Primal Therapy sessions end with the patient screaming and feeling lighter, revived, and relieved of stresses that were holding them down in life.

Some Methods To Practice Screaming

If you want to try it out for yourself, keep reading!

Advertising

  • Step 1: Be Alone — Be alone. If you live in a place that you can’t be alone, it might be a good idea to talk to your family or roommates and explain to them what you’re about to do and make sure they’re okay with it. If you’re good to go, move on to step 2.
  • Step 2: Lie Down — Lie down on a yoga mat on your back and place a pillow underneath your head. If you don’t own a yoga mat, you can use a rug or even a soft blanket.
  • Step 3: Think — Think of things that have hurt you or made you angry. It can be anything from your childhood or even something that happened recently to make yourself cry, if you’re not already crying or upset. You could even scream “Mommy! Daddy!” just like Dr. Janov’s patients did to get yourself started.
  • Step 4: Scream — Don’t hold anything back; cry and scream as loud as you can. You can also pound your fists on the ground, or just lie there and scream at the top of your lungs.

After this, you should return your breathing to a normal and steady pace. You should feel lighter, like a weight has been lifted off of you. If not, you can also try these other methods.

Scream Sing

Scream singing” is referring to what a lot of lead singers in metal or screamo bands will do. I’ve tried it and although I wasn’t very good at it, it was fun and definitely relieved me of any stress I was feeling from before. It usually ends up sounding like a really loud grunt, but nonetheless, it’s considered screaming.

Advertising

  • Step 1 — Bear down and make a grunting sound.
  • Step 2 — Hiss like a snake and make sure to do this from your diaphragm (your stomach) for as long as you can.
  • Step 3 — Breathe and push your stomach out for more air when you are belting notes, kind of like you would if you were singing.
  • Step 4 — Try different ways to let out air to control how long the note will last, just make sure not to let out too much air.
  • Step 5 — Distort your voice by pushing air out from your throat, just be careful not to strain yourself.
  • Step 6 — Play around with the pitch of your screams and how wide your mouth is open – the wider your mouth is open, the higher the screams will sound. The narrower or rounder your mouth is (and most likely shaped like an “o”), the lower the screams will sound.
  • Step 7 — Start screaming to metal music. If you’re not a huge metal fan, it’s okay. You don’t have to use this method if you don’t want to.

If you want a more thorough walkthrough of how to scream sing, here’s a good video tutorial. If this method is too strenuous on your vocal chords, stop. Also, make sure to stay hydrated when scream singing and drink lots of water.

Scream into a pillow

Grab a pillow and scream into it. This method is probably the fastest and easiest way to practice screaming. Just make sure to come up for air.

Advertising

Always remember to make sure that you’re not going to disturb anyone while practicing any of these methods of screaming. And with that, happy screaming!

Featured photo credit: Sharon Mollerus via flickr.com

Read Next