ABSTRACT

Whip spiders (Amblypygi) reside in structurally complex habitats and are nocturnally active yet display notable navigational abilities. From the theory that uncertainty in sensory inputs should promote multisensory representations to guide behavior, we hypothesized that their navigation is supported by a multisensory and perhaps configural representation of navigational inputs, an ability documented in a few insects and never reported in arachnids. We trained Phrynus marginemaculatus to recognize a home shelter characterized by both discriminative olfactory and tactile stimuli. In tests, subjects readily discriminated between shelters based on the paired stimuli. However, subjects failed to recognize the shelter in tests with either of the component stimuli alone. This result is consistent with the hypothesis that the terminal phase of their navigational behavior, shelter recognition, can be supported by the integration of multisensory stimuli as an enduring, configural representation. We hypothesize that multisensory learning occurs in the whip spiders' extraordinarily large mushroom bodies, which may functionally resemble the hippocampus of vertebrates.

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