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
  • Communication and cognition in birds
  • Predator and prey assessment and behaviour
  • Mimicry and deceptive signals

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



Research/Scholarly/Creative Works

Journal Articles
  • Kross SM., Tait A., Raubenheimer D. and Nelson XJ. (2018) New Zealand falcon prey selection may not be driven by preference based on prey nutritional content. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 42(1): 58-64. http://dx.doi.org/10.20417/nzjecol.42.10.
  • 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): 3739-3744. 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): 254-261. http://newzealandecology.org/nzje/3232.
  • 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 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: 84-87. http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MU12020.
  • Kross SM., McDonald PM. 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): 51-59.
  • 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 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) e386979 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.
  • 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., 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 82 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: 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 K., 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: 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 Science (USA) 102: 15155-15160.
  • Nelson XJ. and Jackson RR. (2005) Living with the enemy, jumping spiders that mimic weaver ants. Journal of Arachnology 33: 813-819.
  • Nelson XJ., Jackson RR. and Sune GO. (2005) Use of Anopheles-specific prey-capture behaviour by the small juveniles of Evarcha culicivora, a mosquito-eating jumping spider. Journal of Arachnology 33: 541-548.
  • Nelson XJ., Jackson RR., Edwards GB. and Barrion AT. (2004) Predation by ants on jumping spiders (Araneae: Salticidae) in the Philippines. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 31: 45-56.
  • Jackson RR., Nelson X., Pollard SD., Edwards GB. and Barrion AT. (2001) Jumping spiders (Araneae: Salticidae) that feed on nectar. Journal of Zoology, London 255: 25-29.
Additional Publications
  • Nelson XJ. and Jackson RR. (2011) Flexibility in the foraging strategies of spiders. In Herberstein ME (Ed.), Spider Behaviour: flexibility and versatility: 31-56. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • 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.