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Vision as a third sensory modality to elicit attack behavior in a nocturnal spider

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Cupiennius salei (Ctenidae) has been extensively studied for many years and is probably the only spider that presently can be considered a model organism for neuro-ethology. The night-active spiders have been shown to predominantly rely on their excellent mechano-sensory systems for courtship and prey capture, whereas vision was assumed to play a minor role, if any, in these behavioral contexts. Using slowly moving discs presented on a computer screen it could be shown for the first time that visual stimuli alone can elicit attack behavior (abrupt approaching reactions) in these spiders as well. These observations suggest that visual information could be used by the spiders to elicit and guide predatory behavior. Attack behavior in Cupiennius salei can thus be triggered independently by three sensory modalities—substrate vibrations, airflow stimuli, and visual cues—and offers an interesting model system to study the interactions of multimodal sensory channels in complex behavior.

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We want to thank FG Barth for stimulating discussions. LM Fenk is recipient of a DOC-fFORTE-fellowship of the Austrian Academy of Sciences at the Department of Neurobiology, University of Vienna. Care and use of the animals comply with the Austrian animal welfare laws, guidelines and policies.

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Correspondence to L. M. Fenk.

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Fenk, L.M., Hoinkes, T. & Schmid, A. Vision as a third sensory modality to elicit attack behavior in a nocturnal spider. J Comp Physiol A 196, 957–961 (2010).

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