Brightly Painted Jumping Spiders are Masters of Color Vision

First Posted: May 19, 2015 09:40 AM EDT

When it comes to vision, jumping spiders are masters. Scientists have long known that these arachnids see in remarkably high resolution. Now, researchers have discovered that these spiders see in three color "channels," as most humans do.

"The eyes of jumping spiders could not be more different from those of butterflies or birds, and yet all three tune the color sensitivities using pigments that filter light," said Nathan Morehouse, one of the researchers, in a news release. "It's actually a pretty clever, simple solution with a big payoff."

The researchers carefully examined the structures within the spiders' eyes to understand how they see in color vision. This revealed a clever mechanism that gives the colorful jumping spiders the ability to see in color.

Spiders have four pairs of eyes that pick up on different aspects of their surroundings. In this latest study, the researchers found that the "principal eyes" see in red, green and UV. The secret to this relatively advanced vision is a filter that converts some green-sensitive cells in their eyes to seeing red, much like a pair of sunglasses.

 "One fascinating thing about the trichromatic area in these spiders' retinas is that it is very restricted in field of view, which means they'd have to scan scenes 'line by line' to accumulate color information," said Daniel Zurek, one of the researchers.

The findings reveal a bit more about spider vision. Currently, the researchers hope to explore the role that color vision may have played in the diversity of these jumping spiders over evolutionary time.

The findings are published in the journal Current Biology.

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