Date of this Version
Scientific Reports, 7:46627, DOI: 10.1038/srep46627
The interplay between an animal’s environmental niche and its behavior can influence the evolutionary form and function of its sensory systems. While intraspecific variation in sensory systems has been documented across distant taxa, fewer studies have investigated how changes in behavior might relate to plasticity in sensory systems across developmental time. To investigate the relationships among behavior, peripheral sensory structures, and central processing regions in the brain, we take advantage of a dramatic within-species shift of behavior in a nocturnal, net-casting spider (Deinopis spinosa), where males cease visually-mediated foraging upon maturation. We compared eye diameters and brain region volumes across sex and life stage, the latter through micro-computed X-ray tomography. We show that mature males possess altered peripheral visual morphology when compared to their juvenile counterparts, as well as juvenile and mature females. Matching peripheral sensory structure modifications, we uncovered differences in relative investment in both lower-order and higher-order processing regions in the brain responsible for visual processing. Our study provides evidence for sensory system plasticity when individuals dramatically change behavior across life stages, uncovering new avenues of inquiry focusing on altered reliance of specific sensory information when entering a new behavioral niche.