Most arachnids are central-place foragers that return to retreats or burrows after excursions to hunt. In general, arachnids are relatively large and accessible to behavioral and physiological investigations, and in several cases the animals have special sensory structures that facilitate homing. Here we review the mechanisms used by non-arachnid walking animals to return to specific sites and compare them to what is known for several groups of arachnids. Much of what we know about path integration, in which an animal estimates the angle and distance of a homeward vector using information gathered during an outbound journey, has been gleaned through systematic behavioral experiments on spiders. We focus on the most heavily studied spider models, highlighting the methodology used to deduce various aspects of the path integration machinery. We also highlight some work being done on longer range spider navigators, and emerging work with other arachnid groups. We provide additional thoughts concerning the evolution of homing systems and suggest promising leads for further investigation.
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Vol. 48 • No. 1