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The process of orb weaving and the resultant orb web constitute a good example of a complex behavioural pattern that is still governed by a relatively simple set of rules. We used the orb spider Araneus diadematus as a model organism to study the effect of the three neurotoxins (scopolamine, amphetamine, and caffeine) on the spider's behaviour. Scopolamine was given at two concentrations, with the lower one showing no effects but the higher one reducing web-building frequency; there also appeared to be a weak effect on web geometry. Amphetamine and caffeine, on the other hand, both resulted in significant changes in both building frequency and web geometry, compared to the controls. Amphetamine webs retained their size but showed an increase in spiral spacing and radius irregularity, as well as a decrease in building efficiency. Caffeine led to a general decrease in size and a slight increase in spiral spacing, as well as radius irregularity. Furthermore, caffeine caused webs to be rounder. Our observations suggest that these neurotoxins disturb different parts of the web-building programme presumably by affecting different actions in the spider's CNS.

Original publication




Journal article


Physiol Behav

Publication Date





519 - 529


Amphetamine, Animals, Behavior, Animal, Caffeine, Central Nervous System, Dose-Response Relationship, Drug, Instinct, Models, Animal, Neurotoxins, Scopolamine, Spiders, Stereotyped Behavior