Images Reveal Spider's Double-Beating Heart
An MRI scan of a tarantula. The heart is in the spider's abdomen, shown here as an elongated yellow region.
Credit: Gavin Merrifield

Researchers have recorded the first real-time images of a tarantula's heart beating.

The video, captured with magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, reveals how blood moves through the tarantula's heart, said study researcher Gavin Merrifield, a University of Edinburgh doctoral candidate.

"In the videos, you can see the blood flowing through the heart, and tantalizingly, it looks as though there might be 'double beating' occurring, a distinct type of contraction which has never been considered before," Merrifield said in a statement.

 

A still from the MRI video of the tarantula's heart beating.
A still from the MRI video of the tarantula's heart beating.
Credit: Gavin Merrifield

The MRI allowed researchers to measure the spider's heart rate and cardiac output (how much blood it pumps per beat) noninvasively as part of an ongoing study of tarantula biology. [See images of the tarantula's heart]

A sedated tarantula in an MRI machine
A sedated tarantula in an MRI machine
Credit: Gavin Merrifield

"One potential practical use of this research is to ascertain the chemical composition of spider venom. Venom has applications in agriculture as a potential natural pesticide," Merrifield said.

"On the more academic side of things, if we can link MRI brain scans with a spider's behavior and combine this with similar data from vertebrates, we may clarify how intelligence evolved."

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