The wolf spider Lycosa tarantula homes using path integration. The angular component of the displacement is measured using a polarized-light compass associated with the functioning of the anterior median eyes. However, how L. tarantula estimates the linear component of the displacement was not known prior to this investigation. The ability of L. tarantula to gauge the distance walked after being displaced from its burrow was investigated using experimental channels placed in an indoor setup. Firstly, we manipulated the perception of visual stimuli by covering all the spider's eyes. Secondly, we changed the optic flow supplied by a black-and-white grating (λ=2 cm) perceived either in the lateral or in the ventral field of view. Finally, the period of the lateral or ventral grating was changed from λ=2 cm to λ=1 cm. Our results indicate that visual information contributes to distance estimation because when the spider's eyes were covered, the spiders tended to search for the burrow at very variable distances. This visual information is created by the motion of the image as the spider walks, the motion in the lateral field of view being the most important. The preference of a lateral optic flow over the ventral flow can be explained by the difference in the resolution capacity of the posterior lateral eyes and the anterior lateral eyes.
Keywords: Optic flow; Orientation; Spiders.