Zoologisches Institut und Museum
Allgemeine und Systematische Zoologie
Loitzer Str. 26
Bachelor thesis: Associative learning in a jumping spider
Learning is the basis for the quick and flexible adaptation of an individual to its environment within its lifespan. Contrary to common presumptions, small animals such as invertebrates, for example spiders, are capable of learning. This ability is important, for example, in the context of foraging. Despite its importance, there are still many open questions on how exactly learning works in different organisms.
In associative learning experiments, animals learn to associate a stimulus (e.g. a colour) with a reward or punishment. In my Bachelor thesis, I investigate what kind of sensory experiences can be considered a reward by a jumping spider. In particular, I am investigating whether jumping spiders learn to associate a potential reward (prey item) that they can visually perceive but not actually eat with a colour stimulus. Furthermore, I am interested in how long the spiders can keep the memory of the reward and whether and how quickly habituation occurs.
These questions are important in the context of foraging in the wild, where spiders might frequently encounter prey without successfully catching it. Additionally, in the context of neuroscience, it is interesting to investigate which sensory experience is perceived as rewarding by the brain and specifically, whether visual experience alone can lead to the release of reward-signalling neurotransmitters.