Researchers are slowly coming around to the idea that spider webbing is an essential part of these creatures’ cognitive apparatus. The animals don’t just use their webs to sense with; they use them to think
It’s part of a theory of mind known as “extended cognition,” and humans utilize it too. For instance, we might like to think of our minds as contained in our heads, but we rely on a number of structures outside of our heads (and even outside of our bodies) to help us think. Computers and calculators are an obvious example. We organize our living spaces to help us remember where things are, we jot notes, and we take photographs or store mementos.
But these examples pale in comparison to how a spider’s thinking is interwoven with its web. Scientists are discovering that some spiders possess cognitive abilities rivaling those of mammals and birds, including foresight and planning, complex learning, and even the capacity to be surprised. It’s enough to make you consider whether “Charlotte’s Web” could have been a true story.
The crux of these newly discovered cognitive abilities of spiders comes down to their webs. We’re finding that if you take away a spider’s webbing, it loses some of these capabilities.
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