Tarantula behavior

Creepy Crawler

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There was a debate going on in another thread about the intellegence of tarantulas. I did not want to hijack that thread with a related question so I post it to you here...


Can a tarantula be "conditioned"?

I know it cannot be "trained", but can a tarantula be conditioned to, say, handling? For instance, are captive bred T's that are frequently handled by their owners less likely to bite than one of the same species and age found in the wild?

Just curious
 

Shaka

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Hey there Creepy Crawler, have you read the eBook by Karen Peebles called Training and experimenting with Tarantulas? I found it on Amazon.

When I first read the book, I thought it was pretty cruel what this lady was doing, but when looking at the bigger picture, it seems that through different stimuli, Tarantulas seem to respond and react to their environment in many different ways and it raises the question, if they responded to the things this lady tried, how many other methods or tricks will have an effect on Tarantulas with more stable and consistent results.

I think this is a whole avenue of Tarantula keeping that requires tons of research.

Trained? Maybe. Conditioned? More likely.

What does everyone else think? Post away!

Shaka
 

Rob1985

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I think they live off instinct. I have definitely noticed that WC are much more skittish/aggressive/defensive, but I believe that to be b/c they have been stressed in the wild.

I don't really believe they posses the complex brain structure to know the difference.
 

Hobo

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I think they can't be trained as you would a cat or dog, but that they do have basic instincts that would allow them to adapt to various stimuli similar to those in the wild.

For example, Let's take an arboreal tarantula up in the trees, an Avic.
Now let's say this avic has built it's nest in between some broad leaves and the tree. Now lets say some wind causes her web to be torn every day/night.

What do you think it will do?

Stay there, rebuild it's home time and time again, wasting time and resources?

or

Go someplace else and build there?

If two tarantulas in the same situations do different things, which ones do you think is more likely to survive more often to procreate?

Obviously they would not be a successful species and would have long died out if they were unable to adapt to a certain degree to basic environmental hazards like that. They are living, adapting animals, not robots similar to what you see at MIT.

That's why they make good pets. They can adapt to the humidity/temperature/daylight hours in a home, they can adapt to living in glass tanks to thrive despite our boorish intrusions every time we open up their tanks to pick out boli and fill their dish. If they were unable to adapt to certain, harmless stressors like that in the wild, they wouldn't exist.

So, can they "adapt" to or be "conditioned" for handling?
You will find many valid arguments both for and against. It's one of those things keepers and enthusiasts will argue about until they're blue in the face, and their typing fingers and caps lock keys rubbed raw.

My opinion, if you have not guessed already, is that they can to a certain degree. I've seen it first hand with my smithi and rosea, before I stopped handling my Ts altogether. After some weeks of handling, they were noticebly more receptive to disturbances and handling (by receptive, I mean significantly less "stressed" poses during handling, less skittish/defensive reactions to prodding, and less "recovery time" after she was let back in her cage). With that said, I also believe it is true that they gain nothing at all from physical handling by us, except for potential danger, regardless if they are stressed or not. In the end, I try to do what's safer for my spider, and for that reason, I choose to handle as little as possible. That is my opinion. After you read both sides of the argument you can make your own!

So, I'll give you some threads and posts to read through, which I found using the search function.

Here's a post by Stan Shultz on the matter.
Here's the thread that prompted it.
Here's a search of all posts by Stan with "handling" in them (you'll need to sift through these, and their original threads are worth the read.)
Here's a search for all the threads with handling in the title. You'll need to sift through these as well.
Here's a good one by cacoseraph where he tries to get a smithi used to handling.

I'm sure you could find at least one thread up there to post in that wouldn't hijack it (though, most of those are already hijacked and locked.... hopefully this one won't join them.)
 

Rue

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Without reading through all the responses...I'd just like to mention that any animal has the ability to condition itself to its environment. It's part of the plasticity of behaviour that ensures survival.

An animal learns which stimuli to ignore (ex. as not dangerous) and which to pay attention to (ex. dangerous [avoid], or rewarding [food on the way]). So there's both negative and positive conditioning.

An individual animal that is too rigid in its behaviour likely won't survive.

In addition, there's still only a range of conditioned responses per species - depending on their evolution. So while you may be able to 'tame' a tarantula and get it used to being handled, or perhaps get it to come out of its web if you always tap on the cage prior to putting in a cricket...you probably can't get it to play fetch.
 

Bill S

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Way back in high school biology (many years ago) I remember reading of experiments in which planaria (flatworms) were taught to respond to very simple situations. Tarantulas are much more complex than planarias, so yes, they have the ability to learn. But the real question is in regards to the complexity of what they can learn. Fetching sticks or rolling over on command are obviously out of the question, but conditioning to handling? I wouldn't be surprised. I think the bigger qustion, though, is how much of this is a matter of training the tarantula and how much is training the person.
 

Hekim

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I don't think you could condition to many OW T's for handling, they are kinda hardwired against it.
 

salsalover

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lol thats not what my thread is about the conversation only got started because someone hi jacked my thread :8o but i never claimed that could be trained i just said they have the capability to learn
 

Embers To Ashes

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My mom and I where talking about this yeaterday. My A. versi, for example, always webbed to the lid of her jar. After about a week of me having to tear apart her web every day to mist/feed/clean she stopped webbing to the lid. Even after I do a complete remodel (New sub, new sticks, new stuff in general) and put her in the same jar she was in, she still does not web to the lid. She webs just below the lid, but never ataches anything to the lid its self.
 

nesok

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I have a B. Albopilosum sling that will come to the mouth of it's burrow every time I remove the lid. If it sees the toothbrush (for misting) instead of the tongs, it'll back up into the burrow. If it sees the tongs, it'll get all excited and ready to pounce. Kind of like a cat watching a mouse!
 

phoenixxavierre

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There was a debate going on in another thread about the intellegence of tarantulas. I did not want to hijack that thread with a related question so I post it to you here...


Can a tarantula be "conditioned"?

I know it cannot be "trained", but can a tarantula be conditioned to, say, handling? For instance, are captive bred T's that are frequently handled by their owners less likely to bite than one of the same species and age found in the wild?

Just curious
When you present a neutral stimulus, which it's arguable that the opening of the tank or container wherein the tarantula resides (by a particular person with particular AND repeatedly the SAME movements) could be considered a neutral stimulus, along with an unconditioned stimulus such as offering prey or water (something you KNOW the tarantula must respond to in some way), these two stimuli being paired and repeatedly so, could theoretically result in becoming a conditioned stimulus, IF it produces particular and repeatable behavior in the tarantula. Classic conditioning. This "condition-ability" of the animal would suggest associative learning. We already know that honeybees, amongst other animals, are able to be conditioned.

As far as handling, you would need to present two stimuli to test your idea. The opening up of the tank lid could be one stimuli eliciting no significant reaction from the tarantula. The problem is that there are variables in that situation, such as the possibility that the tarantula relates the vibrations of the tank opening with being fed or watered, rather than with being handled.

What I used to do with my own personal "experiments" at home was simple. Prior to handling I would gently brush the tarantula with a watercolor brush, allowing it to know something was there, after opening the cage. Then I would follow that up with handling. It made handling a lot easier for me, as the majority of the t's I used this on became more conducive to handling, although I must admit that they (on an individual basis) did appear to have their days where they simply wouldn't tolerate it. I didn't take into account things like barometric pressure, etc., and it's possible effect on behavior.

Another form of conditioning can be used when feeding, to condition the tarantula to know when you're feeding it. For example, after opening the cage, one could tap something against the lip of the cage, say, 3 times, and do it every time, prior to feeding, and at no other time. Eventually the tarantula will likely come to recognize that as the signal that it's feeding time, like Pavlov's Dog. And no, I'm not saying they are as smart as dogs, or that they'll start salivating when you tap. I'm saying that they are capable of associative learning. That is my theory. Many likely don't agree, and that's fine. I really don't care. My mind is my own.

I used similar techniques of conditioning when I would feed my Avicularias from my hands. I was never bitten, but I wouldn't recommend people start trying to do this.
 

paassatt

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I have a B. Albopilosum sling that will come to the mouth of it's burrow every time I remove the lid. If it sees the toothbrush (for misting) instead of the tongs, it'll back up into the burrow. If it sees the tongs, it'll get all excited and ready to pounce. Kind of like a cat watching a mouse!
I wouldn't get my hopes up about your tarantula being able to visually distinguish the difference between a toothbrush and a set of tongs. It cannot.
 

Fran

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Another form of conditioning can be used when feeding, to condition the tarantula to know when you're feeding it. For example, after opening the cage, one could tap something against the lip of the cage, say, 3 times, and do it every time, prior to feeding, and at no other time. Eventually the tarantula will likely come to recognize that as the signal that it's feeding time, like Pavlov's Dog. And no, I'm not saying they are as smart as dogs, or that they'll start salivating when you tap.
And that is pure speculation. There are no scientific facts that proves so. :)
 

xhexdx

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I have never witnessed tarantulas actually being conditioned to specific stimuli, but then again, I've never experimented with it or put much thought/effort into it either.

And that is pure speculation. There are no scientific facts that proves so. :)
What would you consider this?

Hey there Creepy Crawler, have you read the eBook by Karen Peebles called Training and experimenting with Tarantulas? I found it on Amazon.

When I first read the book, I thought it was pretty cruel what this lady was doing, but when looking at the bigger picture, it seems that through different stimuli, Tarantulas seem to respond and react to their environment in many different ways and it raises the question, if they responded to the things this lady tried, how many other methods or tricks will have an effect on Tarantulas with more stable and consistent results.
Or this?

Way back in high school biology (many years ago) I remember reading of experiments in which planaria (flatworms) were taught to respond to very simple situations. Tarantulas are much more complex than planarias, so yes, they have the ability to learn. But the real question is in regards to the complexity of what they can learn. Fetching sticks or rolling over on command are obviously out of the question, but conditioning to handling? I wouldn't be surprised. I think the bigger qustion, though, is how much of this is a matter of training the tarantula and how much is training the person.
Can you show any scientific facts that dogs can be trained? Just curious.
 

Fran

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Can you show any scientific facts that dogs can be trained? Just curious.

Plenty. The question is rather dumb since there is plenty of empirical proof that a dog can be trained and can obbey commands.

I didnt read the menctioned book, but again, there are no scientific facts that proves that a tarantula can learn such menctioned patterns like the tapping on the lid=food, etc.
That is speculation, as far as im corncern.
 

Mez

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I'd just like to mention that any animal has the ability to condition itself to its environment. It's part of the plasticity of behaviour that ensures survival.
Is this actually true?
You say its environment, but really its ours, isnt it?
Also, if it is true, wouldnt it take years and years of death for a specific reason, for an animal to start evolving?
I mean, that would mean that technically a goldfish can condition itself to live in a tortoise set up. Fish have done this, such as the Aussie and African Lungfish, but this has taken hundreds of years, if not more.
 

Suidakkra

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I think they live off instinct. I have definitely noticed that WC are much more skittish/aggressive/defensive, but I believe that to be b/c they have been stressed in the wild.

I don't really believe they posses the complex brain structure to know the difference.
I agree completely, and like stated in the previous thread that relates to this one. The brain of a tarantula is only large enough for the basic survival skills of the animal. This brain only allows them to process basic instincts such as hunting for food, mating, and fight or flight response.

I believe it was Shultz who stated that tarantula are "biological robots".

All that information is readily available via searching the Internet, and this forum if the OP wants to get more in depth.

Now if you all would excuse me, I must walk my L.parahybana, I have been itching to try out this new leash. :rolleyes:
 

Fran

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Where? Your response is rather dumb since you can't seem to actually provide anything other than your own words as a response.
Joe really, dont bore me man. If you need for me to show proof that there are empirical scientific facts that shows that dogs can be trained, then either you have a serious problem or you are just looking for what you are always looking for.

Im not playing your game Joe , give it up once and for all man.
 
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