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.

Subject Area: Disciplines

Research Projects

Key Methodologies

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



Research/Scholarly/Creative Works

Journal articles
  • Schwing, R., Nelson, XJ. and Parsons, S. (2016) Audiogram of the kea parrot, Nestor notabilis. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 140(5): 3739-3744. http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/1.4967757.
  • 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)
  • Greer, AL., Horton, TW. and Nelson, XJ. (2015) Simple ways to calculate stable isotope discrimination factors and convert between tissue types. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 6(11): 1341-1348. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/2041-210X.12421.
  • Nelson, Ximena J. (2014) Evolutionary implications of deception in mimicry and masquerade. CURRENT ZOOLOGY 60(1): 6-15.
  • Nelson, XJ. (2014) Animal behavior can inform conservation policy, we just need to get on with the job - or can it? Current Zoology 60(4): 479-485.
  • 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, SM. and Nelson, XJ. (2013) Factors influencing the behavioural development of juvenile New Zealand Falcons (Falco novaeseelandiae). Emu 113(1): 84-87. http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MU12020.
  • Kross, SM., McDonald, PG. and Nelson, XJ. (2013) New Zealand falcon nests suffer lower predation in agricultural habitat than in natural habitat. Bird Conservation International 23(4): 512-519. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0959270913000130.
  • Kross, SM., Tylianakis, JM. and Nelson, XJ. (2013) Diet composition and prey choice of New Zealand falcons nesting in anthropogenic and natural habitats. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 37(1)
  • Jackson, RR. and Nelson, XJ. (2012) Specialized exploitation of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) by spiders (Araneae). Myrmecological News 17: 33-49.
  • Kross, SM., Tylianakis, JM. and Nelson, XJ. (2012) Effects of Introducing Threatened Falcons into Vineyards on Abundance of Passeriformes and Bird Damage to Grapes. Conservation Biology 26(1): 142-149. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1523-1739.2011.01756.x.
  • Kross, SM., Tylianakis, JM. and Nelson, XJ. (2012) Translocation of threatened New Zealand Falcons to vineyards increases nest attendance, brooding and feeding rates. PLoS ONE 7(6) http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0038679.
  • 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. http://dx.doi.org/10.1636/Hill-61.1.
  • Nelson, XJ. and Jackson, RR. (2012) How spiders practice aggressive and batesian mimicry. Current Zoology 58(4): 620-629.
  • Nelson, XJ. and Jackson, RR. (2012) The discerning predator: Decision rules underlying prey classification by a mosquitoeating jumping spider. Journal of Experimental Biology 215(13): 2255-2261. http://dx.doi.org/10.1242/jeb.069609.
  • Nelson, XJ., Pratt, AJ., Cheseto, X., Torto, B. and Jackson, RR. (2012) Mediation of a Plant-Spider Association by Specific Volatile Compounds. Journal of Chemical Ecology 38(9): 1081-1092. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10886-012-0175-x.
  • 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.
  • Zurek, DB. and Nelson, XJ. (2012) Saccadic tracking of targets mediated by the anterior-lateral eyes of jumping spiders. Journal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology 198(6): 411-417. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00359-012-0719-0.
  • 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. http://dx.doi.org/10.1636/Hi11-35.1.
  • Jackson, RR., Salm, K. and Nelson, XJ. (2010) Specialized prey selection behavior of two east african assassin bugs, Scipinnia repax and Nagusta sp. that prey on social jumping spiders. Journal of Insect Science 10 http://dx.doi.org/10.1673/031.010.8201.
  • Nelson, XJ. (2010) Visual cues used by ant-like jumping spiders to distinguish conspecifics from their models. Journal of Arachnology 38(1): 27-34. http://dx.doi.org/10.1636/Hi09-35.1.
  • 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(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. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03014220809510118.
  • 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) Ant-mimicking jumping spiders never cease to disguise. Notes from Underground 12(3)
  • 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. Biological sciences / The Royal Society 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 of the United States of America 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.
  • Jackson, RR., Nelson, XJ., Pollard, SD., Edwards, GB. and Barrion, AT. (2004) Predation by ants on jumping spiders (Araneae: Salticidae) in the Philippines. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 31(1): 45-56. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03014223.2004.9518358.
  • Jackson, RR., Pollard, SD., Nelson, XJ., Edwards, GB. and Barrion, AT. (2001) Jumping spiders (Araneae: Salticidae) that feed on nectar. Journal of Zoology 255(1): 25-29. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S095283690100108X.
Conference - Other
  • Kross, S., Tylianakis, J. and Nelson, XJ. (2009) Observing New Zealand falcon nests using remote videography. Meeting of Australasian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASSAB), 15 Apr 2009 - 18 Apr 2009.
  • Young, L., Kelly, D. and Nelson, X. (2009) Are Fruit-Dispersal Mutualisms Still Functioning in the New Zealand Subalpine Zone? 10th International Congress of Ecology, 16 Aug 2009 - 21 Aug 2009.
  • Zurek, D., Nelson, XJ. and Evans, CS. (2009) Motion perception in the antero-lateral eyes of bark-dwelling jumping spiders. Meeting of Australasian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASSAB), 15 Apr 2009 - 18 Apr 2009.
  • Nelson, XJ. and O'Carroll, D. (2008) The not so secondary eyes of jumping spiders. International Conference on Invertebrate Vision, 1 Aug 2008 - 8 Aug 2008.
  • Wilson, DR., Nelson, X. and Evans, C. (2008) Seizing the opportunity: social context affects mating effort in subordinate male fowl. Animal Behavior Society 45th Annual Meeting, 16 Aug 2008 - 20 Aug 2008.
  • Evans, CS., Nelson, XJ. and Wilson, DR. (2007) Behavioural Syndromes' as an epiphenomenon. Animal Behavior Society, 21 Jul 2007 - 26 Jul 2007.
  • Garnett, D., Nelson, X. and Evans, C. (2007) Design of a deceptive visual signal: Death adders attract lizards by mimicking the movement of invertebrate prey. Australasian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASSAB) Conference 2007, 12 Apr 2007 - 15 Apr 2007.
  • Nelson, X., Wilson, D. and Evans, C. (2007) Modular fowl: 'behavioural syndromes' as an epiphenomenon. Australasian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASSAB) Conference 2007, 12 Apr 2007 - 15 Apr 2007.
  • Wilson, DR., Bayly, KL., Nelson, XJ., Gillings, M. and Evans, CS. (2007) Garrulous Gallus gets the girls: production of high-risk alarm calls is the best predictor of male mating success in fowl. International Ethological Conference, 15 Aug 2007 - 23 Aug 2007.
  • Nelson Ximena. (2006) More to mimicry than meets the eye: the cloaks and daggers of resembling ants. International Society for Behavioral Ecology, 23 Jul 2006 - 28 Jul 2006.
  • Nelson Ximena. (2006) The unique motion detecting eyes of a miniature predator. Australasian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour, 20 Apr 2006 - 23 Apr 2006.
  • Nelson Ximena. (2004) Blood-lust of an East African jumping spider. International Arachnology Conference, 2 Aug 2004 - 7 Aug 2004.
  • Nelson, Ximena. and Jackson, Robert. (2003) Little murderers: how do jumping spiders judge? International Ethological Conference, 20 Aug 2003 - 27 Aug 2003. In Revista de Etologia 5
  • Nelson, Ximena. and Jackson, Robert. (2001) How do salticids mimic ants? 15th International Congress of Arachnology, 26 Mar 2001 - 26 Mar 2001.
Additional Publications
  • Nelson, XJ. (2008) A spider's eye(s) view. Sydney, Australia.
  • Nelson, XJ. (2008) What lurks behind the eyes of fly tigers? University of Vienna, Austria.
  • Nelson, XJ. (2007) Modular fowl: behavioural syndromes as an epiphenomenon. University of Canterbury, NZ.
  • Nelson, XJ. (2006) Seeing things as the hunted and the hunters. University of California, Berkeley, USA.
  • Nelson, XJ. (2005) Mechanisms underlying visual perception and vision-based decision-making.
  • Nelson Ximena. (1998) Morphological & behavioural adaptations of two species of ant-like salticids (Myrmarachne).