UC SPARK - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

Associate Professor Ximena Nelson

Biological Sciences

Fields of Research

  • Jumping spider behaviour
  • Neural basis of information processing. Neuroethology of vision
  • Predator and prey assessment and behaviour
  • Mimicry and deceptive signals
  • Communication and cognition in birds

Researcher Summary

My primary research interests lie in animal behaviour and physiology. I am particularly interested in animal communication and animal cognition, as well as the manner in which animal sensory systems interact with behaviour to form the neuroethology of information processing and decision-making.

For more information, please visit my personal webpage:

Subject Area: Disciplines

Research Projects

Key Methodologies

  • Intracellular electrophsyiology
  • 3D animation
  • Acoustic and video playback
  • Field studies



Research/Scholarly/Creative Works

Journal Article
  • Nelson XJ. (2017) The spider’s charade: the spiders that would be ants. Scientific American 26(2): 4-7.
  • Schwing R., Nelson XJ. and Parsons S. (2016) Audiogram of the kea parrot, Nestor notabilis. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 140(5): 3739. http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/1.4967757.
  • Greer A., Horton T. and Nelson X. (2015) Simple ways to calculate stable isotope discrimination factors and convert between tissue types.
  • Greer AL., Gajdon GK. and Nelson XJ. (2015) Intraspecific variation in the foraging ecology of kea, the world's only mountain- and rainforest-dwelling parrot. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 39(2): 254-261.
  • Nelson X. (2014) Animal behavior can inform conservation policy, we just need to get on with the job - or can it?
  • Nelson X. (2014) Evolutionary implications of deception in mimicry and masquerade.
  • Nelson XJ. and Jackson RR. (2014) Timid spider uses odor and visual cues to actively select protected nesting sites near ants. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 68(5): 773-780. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00265-014-1690-2.
  • Kross S. and Nelson X. (2013) Factors influencing the behavioural development of juvenile New Zealand falcons (Falco novaeseelandiae).
  • Kross S., McDonald P. and Nelson X. (2013) New Zealand falcon nests suffer lower predation in agricultural habitat than in natural habitat.
  • Kross S., Tylianakis J. and Nelson X. (2013) Diet composition and prey choice of New Zealand falcons nesting in anthropogenic and natural habitats.
  • Jackson R. and Nelson X. (2012) Attending to detail by communal spider-eating spiders.
  • Jackson R. and Nelson X. (2012) Evarcha culicivora chooses blood-fed Anopheles mosquitoes but other East African jumping spiders do not.
  • Jackson RR. and Nelson XJ. (2012) Specialized exploitation of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) by spiders (Araneae). Myrmecological news / Osterreichische Gesellschaft fur Entomofaunistik 17: 33-49.
  • Kross S., Tylianakis J. and Nelson X. (2012) Translocation of threatened New Zealand falcons to vineyards increases nest attendance, brooding and feeding rates.
  • Nelson X. (2012) A predator's perspective of the accuracy of ant mimicry in spiders.
  • Nelson X. and Jackson R. (2012) How spiders practice aggressive and Batesian mimicry.
  • Nelson X., Pratt A., Cheseto X., Torto B. and Jackson R. (2012) Mediation of a plant-spider association by specific volatile compounds.
  • Nelson XJ. and Jackson RR. (2012) Fine tuning of vision-based prey-choice decisions by a predator that targets malaria vectors. Journal of Arachnology 40(1): 23-33.
  • Nelson XJ. and Jackson RR. (2012) The discerning predator: decision rules underlying prey classification by a mosquito-eating jumping spider. Journal of Experimental Biology 215(13): 2255-2261. http://dx.doi.org/10.1242/jeb.069609.
  • Nelson XJ., Warui CM. and Jackson RR. (2012) Widespread reliance on olfactory sex and species identification by lyssomanine and spartaeine jumping spiders. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 107(3): 664-677. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8312.2012.01965.x.
  • Schwing R., Parsons S. and Nelson X. (2012) Vocal repertoire of the New Zealand kea parrot (Nestor notabilis).
  • Zurek D. and Nelson X. (2012) Saccadic tracking of targets mediated by the anterior-lateral eyes of jumping spiders.
  • Jackson RR. and Nelson XJ. (2011) Reliance on trial and error signal derivation by Portia africana, an araneophagic jumping spider from East Africa. Journal of Ethology 29(2): 301-307. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10164-010-0258-5.
  • Nelson XJ. and Jackson RR. (2011) Evidence that olfaction-based affinity for particular plant species is a special characteristic of Evarcha culicivora, a mosquito-specialist jumping spider. Journal of Arachnology 39(3): 378-383.
  • Jackson R., Salm K. and Nelson X. (2010) Specialized prey selection behavior of two east african assassin bugs, Scipinnia repax and Nagusta sp. that prey on social jumping spiders.
  • Nelson XJ. (2010) Polymorphism in an ant mimicking jumping spider. Journal of Arachnology 38(1): 139-141.
  • Nelson XJ. (2010) Visual cues used by ant-like jumping spiders to distinguish conspecifics from their models. Journal of Arachnology 38(1): 27-34.
  • Zurek DB., Taylor AJ., Evans CS. and Nelson XJ. (2010) The role of the anterior lateral eyes in the vision-based behaviour of jumping spiders. Journal of Experimental Biology 213(Pt 14): 2372-2378. http://dx.doi.org/10.1242/jeb.042382.
  • Nelson XJ. and Jackson RR. (2009) The influence of ants on the mating strategy of a myrmecophilic jumping spider (Araneae, Salticidae). Journal of Natural History 43(11-12): 713-735. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00222930802610469.
  • Jackson RR., Nelson XJ. and Salm K. (2008) The natural history of Myrmarachne melanotarsa, a social ant-mimicking jumping spider. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 35(3): 225-235.
  • Wilson DR., Bayly KL., Nelson XJ., Gillings M. and Evans CS. (2008) Alarm calling best predicts mating and reproductive success in ornamented male fowl, Gallus gallus. Animal Behaviour 76(3): 543-554. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2008.03.026.
  • Nelson XJ. and Jackson RR. (2007) Complex display behaviour during the intraspecific interactions of myrmecomorphic jumping spiders (Araneae, Salticidae). Journal of Natural History 41(25-28): 1659-1678. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00222930701450504.
  • Nelson XJ. and Jackson RR. (2007) Vision-based ability of an ant-mimicking jumping spider to discriminate between models, conspecific individuals and prey. Insectes Sociaux 54(1): 1-4. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00040-006-0901-x.
  • Nelson XJ. and Jackson RR. (2006) Compound mimicry and trading predators by the males of sexually dimorphic Batesian mimics. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 273(1584): 367-372. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2005.3340.
  • Nelson XJ., Jackson RR., Li D., Barrion AT. and Edwards GB. (2006) Innate aversion to ants (Hymenoptera : Formicidae) and ant mimics: experimental findings from mantises (Mantodea). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 88(1): 23-32. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8312.2006.00598.x.
  • Jackson RR., Nelson XJ. and Sune GO. (2005) A spider that feeds indirectly on vertebrate blood by choosing female mosquitoes as prey. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102(42): 15155-15160. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0507398102.
  • Nelson XJ., Jackson RR. and Sune G. (2005) Use of Anopheles-specific prey-capture behavior by the small juveniles of Evarcha culicivora, a mosquito-eating jumping spider. Journal of Arachnology 33(2): 541-548. http://dx.doi.org/10.1636/05-3.1.
  • Nelson XJ., Jackson RR., Edwards GB. and Barrion AT. (2005) Living with the enemy: Jumping spiders that mimic weaver ants. Journal of Arachnology 33(3): 813-819. http://dx.doi.org/10.1636/S04-12.1.
  • Nelson X., Jackson R., Edwards G. and Barrion A. (2004) Predation by ants on jumping spiders (Araneae: Salticidae) in the Philippines.
Additional Publications
  • Nelson XJ. and Jackson RR. (2011) Flexible use of anti-predator defences. In Herberstein ME (Ed.), Spider Behaviour: Flexibility and Versatility: 99-126. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.