Using Night Vision and AI, Scientists Recorded Complete Spider Choreography for Website Building | Smart News

A close-up photo of a hacked orb weaver sitting in the middle of his web.  Four long hairy legs are stretched out in front of him, and the other two are pressed against his long yellow abdomen.

An arena consisting of a plexiglass box, infrared lights and cameras captured the delicate movements of the spiders.
Gordus Laboratory

Spider webs are one of nature’s most impressive wonders; even the smallest of spiders – with an equally tiny brain – can weave intricate geometric webs. These arachnid architects have both amazed and baffled scientists for centuries, but a new study published last month in the journal Current biology reveals the secrets of spiders.

A team of scientists from Johns Hopkins University used night vision and artificial intelligence (AI) tools to track spiders’ movements, down to the precise placement of their legs, as they weave their webs. Analysis revealed that spiders have their own “choreography,” reports Jennifer Ouellette for Ars Technica.

Study co-author Andrew Gordus, a behavioral biologist at Johns Hopkins University, was birding with his son when they came across a beautiful spider web.

“I was like, ‘If you went to a zoo and saw a chimpanzee building this, you would think he’s an amazing and awesome chimpanzee,'” he said in a press release. “Well, it’s even more amazing because a spider’s brain is so small, and I was frustrated that we didn’t know more about how this remarkable behavior occurs.”

To investigate, Gordus and his team studied six weaver spiders, a species belonging to a group that creates webs in the shape of a spiral wheel. This species is nocturnal and was chosen because it is active all year round and small in size, reports Ars Technica.

Each night, the spiders were placed in a plexiglass box to build their webs. Using infrared light to see at night, a camera captured their every movement as they roamed the compound building their webs. But combing through hours of camera footage looking at each spider’s legs was not going to be an easy task, reports Alice Lipscombe-Southwell for the BBC. Scientific orientation.

“It’s too complicated to go through each image and annotate the points of the legs by hand. So we trained machine vision software to detect spider posture frame by frame so that we could document everything the legs do to create an entire web, ”says lead author Abel Corver, a graduate student by Johns Hopkins.

Analysis of the software revealed that spiders build themselves in well-organized stages. First, they explore space and build a prototype. Then they build the frame and the spokes, or strands that run from the center to the edge. After that, they will start to weave the spiral, which probably stabilizes the canvas. After hours of weaving, the spider crouches in the center of the web, waiting for an unpretentious snack to get trapped, reports Ars Technica.

“We set the entire choreography for website creation, which has never been done for animal architecture at such fine resolution,” Gordus said in the press release.

The team also found that the spiders exhibited very similar movements to the point that the team could predict which part of the web a spider was building based solely on the position of its legs, reports Daniel Maslowski for WUTR in Utica, New York. .

“Even though the final structure is a little different, the rules they use to build the web are the same,” Gordus said in the press release. “They all use the same rules, which confirms that the rules are encoded in their brains. Now we want to know how these rules are encoded at the neural level.”

This research has led the team to wonder which parts of spider brains are responsible for the different phases of web weaving, which they plan to test using mind-altering drugs, according to the press release. Corver also hopes this research could shed light on how our own brain circuitry works, as animal brains are built from the “same fundamental building blocks,” he says.

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