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Spider tests

Spider tests

In 1948, German zoologist H.M. Peters was studying spiders. One of his problems in this study was that it had to be done early in the morning between 2AM and 5AM when the spiders were building their webs.

He asked his friend, Dr. Peter Witt, a German born Swiss pharmacologist, what they might do to try to get the spiders to build their webs at a more reasonable (for humans) hour. According to Rainer Foelix, in his book "Biology of Spiders", Dr. Witt prescribed amphetamine.

Sadly, that didn't work as desired because the spiders continued to build in those early morning hours. However, the webs spun by the drugged spiders were amazingly different then the webs spun by sober spiders. They also tended to look much the same for each specific drug they were given.

Dr. Witt performed more experiments on the spiders with other drugs like LSD, mescaline, and caffeine. The forms the webs took depended on which substance they were given. Because of these findings, Dr. Witt proposed that law enforcement could identify confiscated drugs in a cheaper manner than traditional chemical analysis.

The proposal? Give the drugs to spiders and watch them spin their webs.


Viewer Comments

I worked with Dr. Witt who made these films, in his lab. He was accepted by NASA to have permission to send a spider on a space project to see if it could spin a web without gravity...they did! Peter Witt tested new drugs on spiders to see if the new drug altered the web dramatically or not at all. A visiting scientist planned to go around the world to find out the chemical composition of the web because it is stronger than steel, the stongest metal in the world. He was going to invent a metal so strong to use in bullit proof jackets.


wendy , United Kingdom
2007-03-17


Thanks for the additional information, Wendy. I'm sure that we can learn a great many things from spiders and insects.


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