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Strange but True: Spiders Need UV Light to Feel Amorous

Forget turning out the lights to give jumping spiders privacy for mating

Ultraviolet (UV) light—the band of electromagnetic radiation nestled between visible light and x-rays—seems to cast a particularly amorous glow on the animal world. For instance, the budgie, an Australian parrot, is known to respond negatively to potential mates whose plumage has been stripped of its UV-induced fluorescence (wherein ultraviolet light is absorbed and light of a different, usually visible, wavelength is emitted). And although we humans cannot see UV light, as birds and many other animals can, we have incorporated lamps that produce it into some of our modern courtship rituals—just ask anyone who has ever hit the tanning beds in hopes of snaring a mate or any teen whose idea of setting the mood involves shining a black light on a Pink Floyd poster (which then, like the plumage of a budgie, fluoresces visible light).

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MALE JUMPING SPIDERS display their fitness to potential mates via reflected ultraviolet light
(Image: Courtesy of Matthew L. M. Lim and Daiqin Li)

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