Artificially Produced Animal Behavior


“A striking example of artificially produced animal behavior has come about as a by-product of drug research. Pharmacologist Peter Witt discovered that spiders spin strange, misshapen webs when they are under the influence of drugs. Each drug compels the spider to produce a different type of web, and in its behavior the spider shows an eerie resemblance to disorientations experienced by human beings under the same drug. The graphlike webs can accurately identify the type of drug much more quickly than the usual lengthy laboratory analysis could.

Pervitin, Benzedrinelike stimulant, makes the spider too impatient to circle the center. It spins only in one small area.

Choral hydrate, the barman’s “Mickey Finn,” puts the spider to sleep after it has completed only a small part of its web.

Caffeine produces the arachnid equivalent to human coffee nerves, making the spider spin a haphazard tangle of threads.

Lysergic acid induces acute concentration, the spider zealously weaves a perfect web, greatly improving on nature.”

Animal Behavior, LIFE Nature Library, by Niko Tinbergen and The Editors of LIFE, Time Incorporated, New York, 1965.