It’s unfortunate they’re so hard to hear, but did you know that spiders can make sounds?
Instead of catching flies in a web, the wolf spider hunts and runs down its prey, including small bugs and even other spiders. They have excellent night vision and because they make a hiss-like sound, they are among the so-called hissing spiders.
“Hissing is kind of a misnomer,” Dill said. “What they do is actually called strigulation, like crickets do when they rub their legs together.”
In the case of a wolf spider, it makes sound by rubbing its front legs together.
“Those front legs have hairs that are best compared with Velcro with little hooks on the end,” Dill said. “Some people say it sounds like a hiss when they hear it.”
The behavior is partly a defense strategy and, for the male spiders, mating behavior. In fact, they will turn up the volume during mating season by rubbing their legs while sitting in a pile of dry leaves, according to Dill.
“The rustling of the leaves helps them make more noise,” Dill said.
I don’t think my quiet little Theridiidae make any noise — they’re homebodies, they’re interested in vibrations but not at any detectable auditory level — but now I’m tempted to get some teeny tiny sensitive microphones to check them out.
Also…here is the required “creature of the night” video.
How often a discovery has been prefaced with the words, “I don’t think that…”? ;)
Although, you’re likely going to need microphones that respond well outside of the human audible frequency range.
The writer mixed up poisonous for venomous, and should have spell-checked stridulation. Wolfies also have enchanting blue eye reflections that shine like sapphires in the night (go for a spider walk wearing a headlamp). There should be a lot in the foothills here now. I hear them calling…
PZ Myers says
Yeah, it’s also a sensationalist article that emphasizes how dangerous wolf spiders are. No, they’re not.
consciousness razor says
It would probably be better to have one with a larger diaphragm, since those tend to have less self-noise, which could be an issue. It’s not supposed to be teeny tiny because your plan is to put it on their little spider lapels … right? I mean, I guess you could try…..
Also, at least a little bit of cheap, basic (maybe even homemade) acoustic treatment for the room would probably help…. Not because of the spiders since they’re very quiet but because of everything else. I could only make a rough guess of how loud they may get, but if you (or better yet your students) can never hear them, then you might be surprised by how much low-level noise there is coming from basically everywhere. You’d want to reduce all of that as much as possible so you can get the signal.
And crickets don’t make noise by rubbing their legs together.
Now I have to think about “A Dream of Wolf Spiders in the Snow”. We should suggest the changed title to Daniel Lloyd Davey (if we tell him that that the spiders’ fangs are full of filth, he will accept the idea).
Pierce R. Butler says
PZ Myers @ # 3: … a sensationalist article that emphasizes how dangerous wolf spiders are. No, they’re not.
It depends. How do you know the author is not a small nocturnal insect?
PZ Myers says
The title inspired me to post this gratuitous Spinal Tap link:
Scott Simmons says
“They can be the size of a quarter … so it can be pretty scary.”
HAHAHAHA Those short Maine summers are shrinking their spiders. The wolf spiders here in Texas grow to about five times that size. Still not scary, though.
Children of the night? You mean they hint by moonlight?
(this is all the excuse I need for this song by Mecano. 1990 had good stuff)
Hunt by moonlight… I am trying again