What amazes me about spiders is their complex unlearned behavior. No trapdoor spider learns how to build a trap. No orb weaver learns how to spin a web. Trap/web building behavior is entirely programmed in their DNA.

I think about this a lot in the context of conversations about intelligence. If spiders can have complex behaviors hard-coded, humans certainly do too. (In other words, the Tabula Rasa theory is wrong.) The ability to learn language and emotion are certainly two examples. We are pretty good at certain things (learning language, picking up social cues) and relatively bad at others (calculating an 18% tip).

So if you’re going to measure “intelligence” the first thing you’ll need to do is choose what to measure. What questions do you ask? You might be inclined to pick things we humans think are important. But then that’s not an objective universal measurement, at best it’s yardstick for human cognitive abilities.

>For her 40th birthday, research assistant Leanda Mason wanted to give the spider a mealworm, but Main denied the request since it would interfere with the study.

I have to admire the level of professionalism it takes to not give a single mealworm to a spider you have been watching for forty years.

While we're talking spiders, here's a book recommendation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children_of_Time_(novel) (it's a fantastic novel, if you have any interest at all don't spoil it for yourself)
The final sentence is very sad. Fuck Alzheimer’s.
> Because of Number 16, Main's project took far longer than she had expected. She continued to work into her late 80s, but she "began to look forward to the project's end"

Reminded me of The Onion's "Expert Wasted Entire Life Studying Anteaters":


I wonder what it’s like living life idle 99% of the time. Do spiders get bored?
it's neat that the spider outlasted the arachnologist's career.

I wonder how long it would have lived without the wasps' interference.

> Australian arachnologist Barbara York Main ... returned to the site annually, sometimes more frequently, for more than four decades.

Huge respect. Always amazed by scientists sticking with studies like that.

Forty-three years. That’s a long time to be a spider.
Rarely do I see a wikipedia post here that actually is new and interesting to me. Thanks!
The longest-lived spider: mygalomorphs dig deep, and persevere

Research article reporting the spider's death by Leanda Denise Mason, Grant Wardell-Johnson and Barbara York Main