Scared of Spiders? Blame Your Mother
The fear induced nerve twitching and spine chill you get when confronted by a spider may well be a trait you inherited from your mother before you were born and could be directly associated to the negative experiences and feelings of fear of spiders that she experienced whilst you were in her womb.
Well at least that’s what research conducted at the University of California: Davis is suggesting.
The researchers, using unborn crickets, have proven that animals can gain a fear of spiders based on their mother’s harrowing experiences.
Scientists put pregnant crickets into terrariums containing a wolf spider. The spiders’ fangs were covered with wax so the spider could stalk but not kill the pregnant crickets.
After the crickets laid their eggs, the researchers compared the behaviour of the offspring with that of a control group of young crickets whose mothers had not been exposed to spiders.
The differences were dramatic, the scientists said.
The newborn crickets whose mothers had been exposed to a spider were 113% more likely to seek shelter and stay there. They were also more likely to freeze when they encountered spider silk or faeces — a behaviour that could prevent them from being detected by a nearby spider.
Importantly, overall, these newborns had significantly better survival rates than other newborn crickets, eaten by the wolf spiders for the sake of science.