• picture
  • picture
PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Music to Miss Moppet’s Ears

Air Date: Week of August 24, 2007

stream/download this segment as an MP3 file

Damian Elias of Toronto University uses a laser Doppler vibrometer to record spider conversations. Producer Jeff Rice, of the Hearing Voices Project, visited with him to hear some of the good vibrations coming from the spider world.


GELLERMAN: You’ve heard of the movie: “The Kiss of the Spider Woman,” well this is the music of the spider man.


Researcher Damian Elias of the University of Toronto, uses a laser Doppler vibrometer to measure and record spiders communicating.

ELIAS: One of the things about spiders and one of the reasons that I’m interested in them, is they’re kind of maters of vibration domain. The ones on webs males, for example, pluck songs to the females.


ELIAS: It really is like plucking a guitar string. But not all spiders live on webs and so a lot of other spiders they use sort of vibrations but they’re sort of vibrating on leaves or something like that, not webs.


ELIAS: One of the wolf spiders that I work on make their sounds by drumming. They use the pedipalps, which are their genitalia basically, and they’re banging them against the ground in stereotype patterns. And they also use their legs so they use their pedipalps and their legs to drum this love song to females.


ELIAS: Jumping spiders have these elaborate displays where they wave the different legs, they sway back and forth in a very sort of rhythmical fashion. It’s kind of like flamenco dancing I kind of see it as.


The surface that you heard vibrating is actually on a nylon surface, actually panty hose because it’s just easier to control than say having them vibrate on leaves or rocks or something because they can be quite complicated, the vibration characteristics of them.

I basically came to it with an interest in sensory systems and I was interested in acoustics, vibrational or hearing. And they just happen to be such charismatic creatures, I find spiders very charismatic, that as soon as I started recording from them and it ended up that not a lot of work has been done so that really quickly fed upon itself and just really became a great system to study.


GELLERMAN: Damian Elias is a researcher at the University of Toronto. Our story was produced by Jeff Rice for the Hearing Voices radio series.



Universtity of Toronto News and Events


Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

P.O. Box 990007
Prudential Station
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Telephone: 1-617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.

Creating positive outcomes for future generations.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary hummingbird photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.