Spiders on Drugs = Funky Webs

Studying the web-spinning habits of spiders may not necessarily be the most exciting project a scientist could be assigned to, that is unless he decides to fill the critters full of drugs and wait for them to get creative. That is exactly what zoologist H.M Peters did back in 1948 while making a movie about the webbing techniques of the eight-legged creatures as part of his research at the University of Tubingen in Germany.

When the experiment was launched, the initial idea was for Peters to simply photograph the daily web-spinning rituals of orb spiders. It was not until the scientist grew frustrated with being forced to work between two and five in the morning, when spiders are most active, that he tried to alter their internal clocks.

To do this, Peters sought the help of pharmacologist Peter Witt, who together formulated a plan in which they dosed the spiders with a steady regimen of water laced with various mind-altering substances, including amphetamine, caffeine, cannabis and LSD. All Peters wanted to do is get the spiders to spin their webs during a time of day that was more conducive to his sleep schedule, but the outcome was much more profound.

Although the spiders continued their early morning spinning rituals, Peters and Witt noticed the effects of the substances caused them to spin webs differently than when they were sober.

Interestingly, while Peters eventually threw in the towel on spider research, Witt, who could not help but be fascinated with the experiment, continued studying psychoactive drugs on the orb spider for many years before he died in 1998.

Witt believed that studying the effects of mind-altering substances on spiders was more reliable than using laboratory animals or humans.

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