Jour Fixe: Executive Committee election + Presentation Daniela Rößler

Tuesday, 4. July 2023
15:15 - 16:30

Y 326 / hybrid


Central Office

1. Executive Committee election

2. Daniela Rößler (Postdoctoral Fellow / Biology)

"REM sleep-like state in spiders –are they dreaming?!?"


Sleep is thought to be a universal behavior across the animal kingdom. However, shockingly little is known about the evolution and function of sleep, and different phases of sleep. We recently discovered a sleep-like state in jumping spiders with astounding parallels to REM (rapid eye movement) sleep in vertebrates. By observing juvenile spiders that are temporarily translucent, we found evidence for a REM sleep-like state: periodic bouts of retinal movements coupled with limb twitching and stereotyped leg curling behaviors during nocturnal resting. That these characteristic REM sleep–like behaviors exist in a highly visual, long-diverged lineage challenges our understanding of this sleep state. At the same time, this finding may hold important questions and answers about the origin, evolution and function of REM sleep.

What happened after publishing this research?

The media happened! Since REM sleep in humans is the phase associated with the most intense and narrative dreaming, the most urgent question that the media asked was whether spiders dream and if so, what they are dreaming about. In order to address this question, we need to consider a potential adaptive function of dreaming that may apply to other, if not all, animals. I will talk a little about the limits but also possibilities of future research in this direction as well as share my experience with the flood of media inquiries and what I have learned from this, quite overwhelming, experience.

Further reading:

Rößler, D.C., Kim, K., De Agrò, M., Jordan, A., Galizia, C.G., Shamble, P.S. (2022). Regularly occurring bouts of retinal movements suggest an REM sleep-like state in jumping spiders. PNAS, 119(33).

Rattenborg, N. C., & Ungurean, G. (2022). The evolution and diversification of sleep. Trends in Ecology & Evolution.