Bad news for anyone who’s uneasy around spiders - the eight-legged carnivores seem to be a lot cleverer than we have given them credit for.
Specifically, spiders seem to be able to count, just like human beings.
Observations conducted by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Milkwaukeee suggested that the creatures can count up to four at least - and possibly a lot higher.
Scientists worked out the alarming ability by removing ‘prey larders’ from the webs of golden orb-web spiders.
The creatures like to accumulate ‘larders’ of immobilised prey - and the scientists found that, when they stole mealworms from their webs, the creatures would devote increasing amounts of time to searching, depending on how many items were ‘missing’.
If one worm went missing, the spider would make a quick search - whereas if four were gone, the spider would keep hunting near its web for much longer.
Study lead author Rafael Rodriguez writes, ‘They engaged in longer searches when they had accumulated and lost larger larders (consisting of more prey).’
Rodriguez says that more experiments are needed to work out whther the spiders are actually counting up the food items they have lost - or simply guestimating how much weight of food has gone.
Rodriguez writes, ‘The increase in search time with larder size did not appear to level off between one andfour prey items - his suggests that the spiders may be able to keep track of larders consisting of even higher prey counts.’