Depending on who you ask, spiders are either terrifying creatures or harmless pests. But regardless of how you feel about them, it’s hard to deny that they’re fascinating creatures.
House spiders have a decentralized nervous system, meaning that they lack a centralized brain. Consequently, they do not experience pain the way humans and other animals do. Rather, their response to stimuli is more akin to what we would call reflexes. In short, they do not feel pain, and respond to in like a normal person does.
While it’s clear that spiders can register sensations, it’s still unclear whether or not these sensations are linked to emotional pain. Pain is one of the body’s ways of telling us that there is something wrong.
It is an unpleasant sensation that we experience when tissues are damaged. However, spiders do not have the same nervous system as humans and therefore cannot feel pain in the same way that we do. While they may react to stimuli in a way that appears to be pain, it is not the same as the pain we feel when we are injured.
Researchers are still divided on the subject, and more studies need to be done in order to reach a definitive conclusion. Scientists believe that the spider’s nervous system is simply too primitive to support the experience of pain. However, this doesn’t mean that spiders don’t feel any sort of discomfort.
For example, when a house spider is injured or threatened, it will often curl up into a ball. This is not an act of self-preservation (as many people believe) but rather a defensive maneuver that makes the spider less visible and, therefore, less likely to be eaten and attacked by predators.
Science tells us that spiders do not feel pain, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have other ways of sensing their environment. These arachnids have sensitive hairs on their bodies that allow them to detect changes in air pressure, temperature, and vibrations.
These sensory organs help spiders to navigate their surroundings and find food. So even though they may not be able to feel pain, spiders are still quite adept at sensing their surroundings and responding accordingly.
They can detect danger from a mile apart, and even changes in weather. All these different sensory stimuli give spiders a wealth of information about their environment that helps them to survive.
Do House Spiders Feel Pain? Here’s What Entomologists Think
House spiders, still belonging to the insects class, have a very different nervous system from mammals and other vertebrates. They lack pain receptors that send information to the brain about an injury. Instead, they have a decentralized nervous system with nerves spread throughout their bodies and interconnected ganglia. What does this mean for pain?
It’s difficult to study pain in animals, let alone insects, since we cannot ask them how they are feeling. We can only observe their behavior. In the case of house spiders, when they are poked or prodded, they will often react by trying to escape. But that could also just be a reflexive action and not an indication of pain.
Pain is an Emotional Response
In addition to the lack of pain that house spiders experience, this is supported by the fact that pain is an emotional response. Emotions are processed in the brain, and as stated before, house spiders have a decentralized nervous system without a brain. House spiders, among other insects, cannot suffer simply because they lack emotions. Suffering requires a conscious awareness of pain that insects do not possess.
If it’s injured, a house spider will continue to go about its business until it dies either because of the failure to get out from the injury or from starvation and infection due to the injury. According to entomologists, what spiders may feel to what seems like a “torturous” poke is nothing more than a reflexive twitch and a feeling of inconvenience.
Pain vs. Avoiding Injury
It’s important to make the distinction between pain and avoiding injury. Just because house spiders can’t feel pain doesn’t mean they don’t have ways of sensing their environment and trying to avoid injury. Spiders, as well as other insects, have what are called mechanoreceptors. These are sensory receptors that detect changes in pressure, vibration, and movement.
Additionally, receptors allow spiders to build webs that are sensitive enough to detect the struggling of prey but also sturdy enough to support the spider’s weight. They also allow spiders to sense when they are being touched so they can react accordingly. While mechanoreceptors don’t allow spiders to feel pain, they do allow them to sense their environment and avoid injury. It is one of the primary reasons why they are able to survive in the wild.
Interestingly, pain is a more complex sensation that requires a more developed nervous system. Pain is biology’s way of telling us to stop doing something that is harmful. It can be helpful in some situations, but it can also be a hindrance. For example, if you touch something hot, you feel pain as a way to tell you to stop, so you don’t get burned.
In the case of house spiders, their lack of pain may be an evolutionary advantage. Their decentralized nervous system allows them to continue functioning even if they lose a leg or two. If they had a more centralized nervous system, an injury like that could be debilitating and even fatal.
However, avoidance of injury is a simpler mechanism that can be found in less complex organisms. It is a survival mechanism that does not require pain. So, while house spiders may not feel pain in the same way we do, they are still able to sense their environment and avoid injury.
Contrary to popular belief, spiders may appear to be in pain, but they lack the emotional response to be able to feel pain. Their pain receptors are not as developed as ours, and their nervous system does not allow for the processing of emotions. While they may be able to sense their environment, they cannot feel pain just like how humans perceive it.