Jumping Spiders See with Rose-Colored Glasses

This amorous jumping spider is romancing his potential mate. But why bother dressing in flamboyant red if your intended is supposedly colorblind? New research reveals some spiders have a set of rose colored lenses that let them see their suitors in a different light. This is Scientific American. I’m Lydia Chain. Most spiders don’t have very good eyesight let alone color vision. But some types like these brightly colored dancing Habronattus spiders see quite well. “And not surprisingly those are the groups of spiders that hunt for a living instead of capturing things in a web.” Nathan Morehouse University of Cincinnati. But good vision doesn’t mean color vision. Like most spiders, Habronattus spiders have only two types of color receptors in their eyes: green and ultraviolet. Scientists didn’t think they could distinguish other shades. Morehouse and his colleagues discovered Habronattus spiders have a tiny red lens that sits over some of the green receptors in their retina. Those lenses act like rose-colored glasses. They filter the light so those cells only ever receive red light, giving Habronattus the ability to distinguish reds, oranges, and yellows from greens. And it means that exhibited vivid colors during the mating dance isn’t wasted on its audience. Scientists still don’t know why these spiders evolved this super vision. It might make prey easier to spot among the vines and sands of their habitat or help spiders avoid poisonous morsels. And why the males put on such a song-and-dance routine is another question. Are they proving superior genetic quality? Are they hypnotizing the females she doesn’t strike? For spiders, the dating game has high stakes. Some spiders are cannibals and with the wrong move, this male might end up a snack. And so these males are really dancing for their lives. There’s a real premium on them getting this right. This hapless spider failed to impress but since he avoided being a romantic dinner perhaps he got off easy. For Scientific American, I’m Lydia Chain.

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