Have you ever wondered whether spiders feel pain? Maybe you accidentally stepped on one, or brushed one out of your garage a little to enthusiastically, or sprayed them with the water hose.
Well this article answer that very question both scientifically from the standpoint of comparing spiders reaction to pain compared to humans and also to put your mind at ease from an ethical perspective.
But if you’re looking for the quick answer…
Do spiders feel pain? No they don’t. Not at least when comparing them to a human nervous systems response to pain. Spiders are a more primitive creature and don’t interpret or feel pain in the same way we would think of it.
Genuine spider lovers could find it hard harming the insects as the thought is from an emotional perspective. Most people perceive that animals and insects experience pain, just like humans do.
That being said, there’s way more to this question than a simple answer paragraph and this article will compare different human scenarios to insect scenarios to identify whether spiders can feel pain. So let’s get into it.
The Pain Reception System of a Spider
The spider’s nervous system mainly concentrates on the cephalothorax which, as discussed above, is the head part of the insect. Ganglia, the nervous tissue, are connected with a ganglion. It is located under the esophagus and below and behind the spider’s brain.
Looking at the spider’s brain’s shape, you realize that it shows the habits and is sensitive to touch for the web builders. The back part of the brain is always larger for the specific type of spiders that hunt using their vision.
In the spiders’ main eyes, you will find rhabdoms that are responsible for light rays reception. Spiders can tell when light is concentrated towards them and run away. The legs also have sensory organs in thin long hairs and can detect tremors and air currents.
A spider curls up when it detects motion nearby; it can feel that something is wrong. It takes more than one system in the body for an insect to feel pain, from the central nervous system to the nociceptors.
Earlier above, when defining pain, this piece states that it is a form of discomfort that communicates something wrong in humans. Like humans, spiders can tell when something is wrong; it does not have to be a pain. Their intelligence and nervous system allow them to detect the conditions around them.
What is Pain?
Human beings define pain as an uncomfortable feeling that communicates something wrong in the body system. The pain is present in different forms, such as a steady pulse, stabbing, an ache, or pinching.
It is uncomfortable and can deter one from going about day to day activities. Now, for the spiders and insects, pain can be caused by different scenarios.
If a spider breaks its leg, does it experience discomfort? Does the spider understand that something is wrong? Can it go about its regular activities without a struggle? The answer to these questions is a resounding yes. However, the real answer lies in how spiders respond to pain; considering their body structure, it is different from the human way.
The spider’s body consists of two major parts: the cephalothorax(front) and the abdomen in layman’s language. A commoner will identify them in this order or form.
The front part takes into account the head and breast past; that is the prosoma. On the other hand, the abdomen is the opisthosoma. These two are connected by a small tube known as the pedicel. The body parts are from chitin, which is a hardened material. It is so different from the human body that is so soft to feel.
There are also the legs, jaws, and feelers on the spider. Do you think breaking these parts cause pain?
Pain and Sentience
Avoiding pain and avoiding injury are two different scenarios. Most people attribute injuries to pain but can one undergo pain without injury? Take the example of when you are asleep.
Do you wake up in the same position that you slept? No! You don’t. The body’s reflex arc guides the body to turn and toss to avoid sleeping in the wrong position that could cause discomfort; the discomfort that turns into pain after that.
Even while asleep, your body notices the dangers of sleeping in the wrong positions and comes up with ways to avoid injuries. You must understand that pain is subjective, and everyone learns about pain through different experiences in life. A child can tell when they are in pain.
Now, back to the spiders, you realize that they can also avoid injury. Their receptors and sensory organs can ascertain when there are potential sources of danger. Have you ever tried killing a mosquito with your palms? The insect flies away when they detect the slightest movements.
Insects tend to have a highly advanced sensory system that is constantly at work. The system makes the spiders aware of what is going on around them, thus avoiding injuries.
They can sense heat, pressure, and any other actions by humans or just in the surrounding. If there are in the open and it is windy, they can feel the wind and clutch at the nearest strong place.
If you’re enjoying this post on male and female spiders, checkout my article Do Male Spiders Lay Eggs?
Pain and Emotions
Sources state that pain is an emotional response. According to this theory, whether spiders experience pain is better understood when you focus on whether spiders can feel emotions.
If you are injured on your arm, there are chances that you avoid inflicting further pain by avoiding using that hand. A similar instance is seen in insects when you poke them; they will devise ways not to use the injured area.
This simple comparison means that even spiders can learn to avoid bad situations. The spider senses when it is injured and can differentiate the good and bad experienced. The learned avoidance helps the spiders protect themselves from potential dangers. A defensive withdrawal is also actionable when the spiders sense danger.
On the other hand, cognitive responses dictate that an insect can avoid trouble in the future, just like the high-order organisms like humans. Though generic like the other insects, spiders can learn from the experience of discomfort and pain.
Research shows that spiders who were exposed to danger learned avoidance for survival. The presence of emotions means that spiders can also detect something wrong, just like other mammals.
However, research-based on the absence of the pain receptors in their body structure indicates that spiders lack the neurological capability to translate negative stimuli. Yes, they can tell when something is wrong and adapt to better conditions but cannot translate to emotional experiences.
Do spiders feel pain? Weird as it may be, the information here is drawn from behavioral observations on how insects respond to injuries. An insect with a broken leg will have a distorted movement but does not limp.
If the abdomen is crushed, the insect will continue with its activities, such as feeding. The insects will tend to behave normally until they die. These three examples do not dispute the fact that spiders can experience pain and discomfort.
They are different from the other invertebrates as their cartilage casing is on the outside. They may not experience pain like the other vertebrates bust most definitely experience it to some level.
Entomologists hold their position that insects do not feel pain. Nevertheless, from an individual point of view, as seen here, spiders can sense injury, interpret the experiences, and respond to the injuries differently.
The reaction depicted by an ant in the event of injury is different from the one shown by a spider as the animal groupings are different. The interpretation of pain and injury is diverse. A similar case is seen in the spider reacts differently from a wolf spider as the complexity and body structures are different.
We cannot say that spiders do not have emotions, yet they run when we try to harm them. They struggle when harmed, and all this is fear. It is a fear of the pain that they may experience and death.
Most people will ethically argue that these insects need humane treatment. It could be showing kindness and paving the way for them to go on with life. A poisonous spider in your shoe, however, portrays another scenario and should be contained.
The harm or pain that humans inflict on insects depends on how they behave. Conversely, the agitation that insects show is dependent on the conditions around.
From an ethical perspective, you should not kill them if they have not posed any danger to you. You cannot go harming every insect that you find by the road.
Animal activists agitate for the animals and insects’ rights and state that they should be left to live if they cause no harm to the environment and occupants in the area.
The conclusion on whether the spiders can or cannot feel pain is still subject to various experiments and observations. If you looked at a spider making a home for their eggs, you would know that they have emotions.
They do so to safeguard the young ones, which alone is feeling; they want to protect the eggs. Some spider species will even watch over the egg sacs and make sure that nothing bad happens.
During this time, they withstand harsh conditions such as rains and scorching sun to protect the eggs until they hatch. If this is not classified as emotional, then we cannot know what it is.
If you want to learn more about various insects, then checkout our site categories, we have a bunch of articles there that are totally worth reading:
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All the best
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