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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Spiders With Sexy Ultraviolet Bling

A team of scientists in China and Singapore, led by Prof. Li Daiqin at the NUS, has discovered that the "Jumping Spider" Phintella vittata is able to see ultraviolet light in the UVB (280–315nm) range.

UVB reflective patches are found on the abdomens of male jumping spiders and are likely used for mating displays.

To find out if females of the species can see these patches, Prof. Li's team put a number of male and female spiders into adjacent cages that can be fitted with transparent filters which only block off UVB wavelengths.

Under normal lighting conditions, some female spiders responded positively to the male spiders' courtship display in the next cage. However, when the UVB filters were added, these females lost interest. This demonstrates that the UVB patches on the male spiders are essential to attract the females.

While many species of insects, crustaceans, birds, fish, and mammals can see ultraviolet light in the UVA (315-400nm) range, this discovery is novel because Phintella vittata is the first species found to be capable of seeing the shorter UVB wavelengths. Since UVB rays can cause eye damage and skin cancer, scientists had previously thought that it is unlikely that animals can perceive it.

How these spiders see in the UVB range is unknown, since UVB receptors have not yet been found (although one of the UVA receptors in the mantis shrimp may have overlapping sensitivity to UVB). It is also not known how their eyes are protected from the damaging effects of UVB.

To me, only one thing is for sure.

Nobody can resist the Power of Bling!

Wearing my bling, doing my thang, rappin' 213, uh huh uh huh...

You are thinking: "Dude, human bling is so not synapomorphic to spider bling - it's obviously a homoplasy!"

Fresh Brainz readers are such smarty pants.

Shut up, real audience, I'm trying to talk to my target audience here!

*awkward silence*

*tumbleweed rolls by*

Would you like to know more?
- Original research article:
UVB-Based Mate-Choice Cues Used by Females of the Jumping Spider Phintella vittata (Li et al. 2008, Current Biology)
Jumping spiders can see UVB! (The Biodiversity Crew @ NUS)
Seeing Love in a Different Light (ScienceNow Daily News)