Study by Daniela Rößler recognized as Cozzarelli Prize finalist 2022

Research published last year is honoured for findings suggesting that spiders might dream

March 21, 2023

Last year, MPI-AB behavioral ecologist Daniela Rößler led an international team to publish a paper titled "Regularly occurring bouts of retinal movements suggest a REM sleep-like state in jumping spiders" in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The paper, whihc included co-author Alex Jordan from MPI-AB, provided tantalising evidence that spiders experience REM-like sleep, and hence might dream. Yesterday, it was chosen as a finalist for the 2022 Cozzarelli Prize, the prestigious award given out annually by PNAS to papers of exceptional quality and originality.

Better understanding animal sleep

The research results of Daniela Rößler and her team suggest that jumping spiders (Evarcha arcuata) experience a state similar to active REM sleep in humans. They recorded and analyzed nocturnal infrared footage of 34 young jumping spiders. The spiders exhibited phases of clear retinal movements that took place at very regular intervals. These phases increased in length over the course of the night. The retinal movements were always accompanied by uncontrolled movements of the body, like curling of the legs or twitching of single limbs or the spinnerets. These are surprising similarities to REM sleep seen in other animals.

When published in PNAS in the summer of 2022, Rößler’s study was featured in national and international media. National Geographic, for example, recognized the research as one of the “22 most amazing discoveries of 2022”. 

About the prize

In 2005, the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) established the Cozzarelli Prize to honour articles of outstanding scientific quality and originality published in PNAS. Six committees representing the six categories of PNAS meet every year to compile a list of potential awardees and select one winner from each category. As there were so many outstanding candidates in 2022, the jury selected one finalist from each category in addition to the winner.

About Daniela Rößler
Daniela Rößler is a behavioural and evolutionary ecologist. Since May of 2021, she has been a postdoctoral fellow at the Zukunftskolleg and the Department of Biology at the University of Konstanz as well as at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior where she works with group leader Alex Jordan. Her research interests include animal colouration, sensory ecology and animal behaviour with a focus on anti-predator adaptations.

Natural history observations from the field form the basis for most of her research questions. She uses integrative and interdisciplinary approaches in both the field and the lab to experimentally test the function of signals and/or behaviour. Daniela Rößler focuses on visual signals, cognition and anti-predator adaptations in jumping spiders. She is currently studying the ecology of fear and sleep in jumping spiders.

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