Even though being active exclusively after sunset, the male Leucorchestris arenicola spiders are able to return to their point of departure by following bee-line routes of up to several hundreds of meters in length. While performing this kind of long-distance path integration they must rely on external cues to adjust for navigational errors. Many external cues which could be used by the spiders change dramatically or disappear altogether in the transition period from day to night. Hence, it is therefore imperative to know exactly when after sunset the spiders navigate in order to find out how they do it. To explore this question, we monitored their locomotor activity with data loggers equipped with infrared beam sensors. Our results show that the male spiders are most active in the period between the end and the beginning of the astronomical twilight period. Moreover, they prefer the moonless, i.e. darkest times at night. Hence, we conclude that the males are truly—and extremely—nocturnal. We further show that they are able to navigate under the very dim light conditions prevailing on moonless nights, and thus do not have to rely on the moon or on moon-related patterns of polarised light as potential compass cues.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Åkesson S, Wehner R (1997) Visual snapshot memory of desert ants, Cataglyphis fortis. Proc Neurobiol Conf Göttingen 25:482
Bartels M (1929) Sinnesphysiologische und physiologische untersuchungen an der trichterspinne Agelena labyrinthica (Cl.). Z Vergl Physiol 10:527–591
Barth FG (2001) A spiders world, senses and behavior. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York
Benhamou S, Sauvé JP, Bovet P (1990) Spatial memory in large scale movements: efficiency and limitations of the egocentric coding process. J Theor Biol 145:1–12
Cartwright BA, Collett TS (1983) Landmark learning in bees. Experiments and models. J Comp Physiol 151:521–543
Cloudsley-Thompson JL (1985) The biorythms of spiders. In: Nentwig W (ed) Ecophysiology of spiders. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 371–379
Dacke M, Nilsson D-E, Warrant EJ, Blest AD, Land MF, O’Carroll DC (1999) Built-in polarizers form part of a compass organ in spiders. Nature 401:470–473
Dacke M, Nordström P, Sholtz CH (2003) Twilight orientation to polarised light in the crepuscular dung beetle Scarabaeus zambesianus. J Exp Biol 206:1535–1543
Doujak FP (1985) Can a shore crap see a star? J Exp Biol 116:385–393
Gal J, Horvath G, Barta A, Wehner R (2001) Polarization of the moonlit clear night sky measured by full-sky imaging polarimetry at full moon: comparison of the polarization of moonlit and sunlit skies. J Geophys Res 106(D19):22647–22653
Henschel JR (1990) The biology of Leucorchestris arenicola (Areneae: Heteropodidae), a burrowing spider of the Namib desert. In: Seely MK (ed) Namib ecology: 25 years of Namib research. Transvaal Museum Monograph No. 7. Transvaal Museum, Pretoria, pp. 115–127
Henschel JR (2002) Long distance wandering and mating by the dancing white lady spider (Leucorchestris arenicola) (Araneae, Sparassidae) across Namib dunes. J Arachnol 30:321–330
Hill DE (1979) Orientation by jumping spiders of the genus Phidippus (Arenae: Salticidae). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 5:301–322
Jäger P (1999) Sparassidae—the valid scientific name for the huntsman spiders (Arachnida: Areneae). Arachnol Mitt 17:1–10
Kohler M, Wehner R (2005) Idiosyncratic route-based memories in desert ants, Melophorus bagoti: how do they interact with path-integration vectors? Neurobiol Learn Mem 83:1–12
Lawrence RF (1962) Spiders of the Namib desert. Ann Transvaal Mus 10:197–211
Lawrence RF (1965) New and little known arachnida from the Namib Desert, South West Africa. Scientific papers of the Namib Desert research station, vol. 27, pp 1–12
Lythgoe JN (1979) The ecology of vision. Oxford University Press, New York
Mittelstaedt H (1985) Analytical cybernetics of spider navigation. In: Barth FG (ed) Neurobiology of arachnids. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 298–316
Müller M, Wehner R (1988) Path integration in desert ants, Cataglyphis fortis. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 85:5278–5290
Nilsson D-E (1990) From cornea to retinal image in invertebrate eyes. Trends Neurosci 13:55–64
Nørgaard T, Henschel JR, Wehner R (2003) Long-distance navigation in the wandering desert spider Leucorchestris arenicola: can the slope of the dune surface provide a compass cue. J Comp Physiol A 189:801–809
Ortego-Escobar J, Muñoz-Cuevas A (1999) Anterior median eyes of Lycosa tarantula (Araneae, Lycosidae) detect polarised light: behavioural experiments and electroretinographic analysis. J Arachnol 27:663–671
Rossel S, Wehner R (1984) Celestial orientation in bees: the use of spectral cues. J Comp Physiol A 155:605–613
Rozenberg GV (1966) Twilight: a study in atmospheric optics. Plenum Press, New York
Warrant EJ (2004) Vision in the dimmest habitats on earth. J Comp Physiol A 190:765–789
Wehner R (1982) Himmelsnavigation bei insekten. Neurophysiologie und verhalten. Neujahrsbl Naturforsch Ges Zürich 184:1–132
Wehner R (1992) Arthropods. In: Papi F (ed) Animal homing. Chapman & Hall, London, pp 45–144
Wehner R (1997) The ant’s celestial compass system: spectral and polarization channels. In: Lehrer M (ed) Orientation and communication in arthropods. Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel, pp 145–185
Wehner R, Duelli P (1971) The spatial orientation of desert ants, Cataglyphis bicolor, before sunrise and after sunset. Experientia 27:1364–1366
Wehner R, Räber F (1979) Visual spatial memory in desert ants, Cataglyphis bicolor (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Experientia 35:1569–1571
Wehner R, Srinivasan MV (2003) Path integration in insects. In: Jeffery KJ (ed) The neurobiology of spatial behaviour. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 9–30
Wehner R, Wehner S (1986) Path integration in desert ants. Approaching a long-standing puzzle in insect navigation. Monitore Zool Ital 20:309–331
Wolf H, Wehner R (2000) Pinpointing food sources: olfactory and anemotactic orientation in desert ants, Cataglyphis fortis. J Exp Biol 203:857–868
We thank the Swiss National Science Foundation for funding the project (Grant No. 31-61844.00 to RW), the Department of Zoology, University of Zürich, Switzerland, and the Department of Zoology, University of Aarhus, Denmark, for equipment. Permission to work in the Namib-Naukluft Park was granted by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the Gobabeb Training and Research Centre. This fieldwork complies with the “Principles of animal care,” publication no. 86-23, revised 1985 of the National Institute of Health and with Namibian law.
About this article
Cite this article
Nørgaard, T., Henschel, J.R. & Wehner, R. The night-time temporal window of locomotor activity in the Namib Desert long-distance wandering spider, Leucorchestris arenicola . J Comp Physiol A 192, 365–372 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00359-005-0072-7
- Path integration
- Locomotor activity