Jammin' Spider Webs

This topic submitted by Paige Firestone, Jack Feichtner, Kelly Markle, Whitney Smith, Elissa Van Houtte (kellymarkle@hotmail.com, firestpd@muohio.edu) at 3:12 pm on 12/6/01. Additions were last made on Tuesday, February 11, 2003. Section: Dorsey


I. Introduction:
The goal of our student generated lab is to study the effect of music on spider orientation within a given, created environment. The human world today is far too quick to take over natural areas, often forgetting that creatures inhabit these areas. Seeing this lack of appreciation and consideration for this natural world surrounding us, we decided to study the effects of human "noise" upon web spinning spiders of the specie Theridiidae (Lyon 1). Research on this subject led us to the discovery of the importance of vibrations to these small creatures. Spiders are sensitive to vibration. Composed of a relatively heavy center and with eight slim appendages as their only support their sensitivity to vibration is important for many reasons (Foelix 52). Spiders rely heavily on their perception of vibrations to compensate for their poor eyesight. Thus, vibrations play an extremely important role in detecting both the presence of prey caught in their webs and the presence of possible mates (Rovner 45). Spiders are extremely sensitive to human intervention, as proven by a NASA science experiment. In the experiment, scientists studied the ways in which “different drugs alter the architecture of the web spun by a house spider” (Highfield 1). This experiment was just another piece of evidence that illustrated the sensitivity of spiders. It is by drawing upon these facts that we came up with our hypothesis.
We believe that there will be at least some measurable pattern in the way the spiders react to the music. We expect that each group of spiders will react in a comparable way to the musical stimulus. From our collected data, we were able to observe and statistically analyze patterns that became apparent. Specifically, we think spiders will be drawn to the softer vibration of the classical music-perhaps they'll have a desire to mate. To juxtapose this, we also must conclude that the spiders will be repelled by the erratic and harsher vibrations of Outkast and Peter Kruder, which seem more threatening.
Music has been proven to have a significant influence on youth violence. In the Maranatha Christian Journal it was reported that “some heavy-metal rock music, as well as some rap music, ‘dwells on, romanticizes, stylizes, beautifies, consecrates, divinizes, and celebrates violence” (Baptist Press 1). Although the words will have not affect on the spiders, as they do not comprehend the meanings of words, it is evident that music has an effect on people, and thus, we can hypothesize that it will also affect spiders.
Our interest in completing this research project stemmed from a common interest in natural preservation and a shared interest in removing some human elements from natural environments. Past experiments prove that web patterns of house spiders are altered due to imposed changes in the spider's environments and behaviors; we believe that this research readily applies to the orientation of a spider within the environment as well. Our original experiment involved directly studying the web; upon investigation, this proved inefficient as the webs of house spiders are extremely tiny and the technology to properly evaluate one statistically is not available to us. In addition, this design was ineffective, as it did not yield statistical data. Thus, the revised experiment explored the way that spiders inhabit a given space because of musical stimulus.

II. Relevance of Research Question:
We believe this experiment is significant because it will shed light on the way spiders react to human intervention. As our cities grow, we infringe upon and dominate more and more of the natural environment. Spiders today are exposed to car horns, construction, slamming doors and telephones. These experiments perhaps will show us how spider behavior has changed as human "noise" has entered the spider realm. By exaggerating and controlling this noise, we can observe some general trends.

III. Materials and Methods:
Materials:
Our materials for our experiment included: 20 spiders, the subjects of our study, 20 cylindrical containers (like a film container, but clear), that served as the spider's habitat for the duration of the study, 3 CD players with speakers which played music for the spiders, 3 CDs each containing music to which the spiders will be exposed, (CD1- Bach's Ave Maria; CD2- Peter Kruder's Tanto Tempo; CD3- Outkast's Bombs Over Baghdad, small crickets to feed the spiders, and a set measuring mechanism for determining the spiders' orientations within their environments. These materials together aided us in completing our set experiment.
Methods:
Twenty spiders of the same species were collected and split into four groups of five. Each group was set up in a different classroom in the basement of Mary Lyon Hall. The spiders were each inside a small container. The environmental situations of the rooms could be monitored easily since they were located in the same place. In the book, The Effects of Temperature on the Web Building Behavior of the Common House Spider, it is stated that a rather temped environment is desirable by most spiders (Barghusen, 33). For this reason, we chose a hall with a moderate climate, neither too warm nor cool. The spiders were set up in a straight line and placed above the speakers that would emit the sounds. Three groups, excluding the control, were exposed to music for 24 hours a day and the spiders’ placement was measured once a day. The control was also monitored, although it was not being exposed to any music. The control was critical; through the control, we were able to observe whether spiders orient themselves in the same way naturally, as they do in a refrained environment. Group One had the pleasure of listening to the classical piece: "Ave Maria" by Bach. We chose this song because the rhythms have a measured pattern and there is repetition of rhythm and melody. It is also soft and has very few variations in meter and beat. Group Two was exposed to "Tanto Tempo," a remix of a techno song by Peter Kruder. This obviously juxtaposed the level of vibrations in the Bach Concerto. It was full of variable beats that provided constant vibrations. There is no pattern to the sounds that are emitted, only a relentless high-pitched pounding. The final group exposed to sound was Group 3. This group was exposed to Outkast's "Bombs over Baghdad". We selected this piece for its crashing beat and constant bombardment of vocals. The spiders were exposed to repetitions of these pieces 24 hours/day. On Thursdays the spiders were fed one cricket each and it was noted whether the spider actually consumed the cricket.
The schedule of data collection was simple and efficient. Data was gathered once a day for a total of 15 days. The first 6 days, all of the spiders were exposed to the silence of the Mary Lyon basement. On the seventh day, the spiders were introduced, by group, to their various musical selections and remained under this influence for the remainder of the experiment.
The experiment has proven to be statistically sound because we had a controlled environment for all the spiders, where variables such as temperature, pressure, lighting, and outside noise were the same. The structure of our experiment has proven to make patterns in behavior not only easier to distinguish but also easier to analyze.
As far as addressing the problem of biased results, we didn't have to consider this. No opinion was needed for data analysis. Each piece of data that we collected was quantitative rather than qualitative, and needed only to be measured and recorded on the data sheets. Consistency in our data collection was very important. In order to remove any opportunity for slight differences between measurements, a single measuring device was developed and used for all of the spiders. Our method was to use a transparency slip with a grid. By wrapping this around the cylinders the spiders were in, we could measure at what point they were latitudinally without a great deal of trouble. The angle measurement was simply a circle, divided into degrees, and preserved on a piece of cardboard. By then placing the cylinder atop this drawn measuring tool, we could accurately pinpoint the location of the spider longitudinally in its environment. One must conclude, after reading the above outlined experiment, that retrieving data will not be greatly difficult but will require ample time. For this reason, we believe that the best way to include our classmates will be in intellectual discussion. At the point of our lesson, we were in the process of analyzing the gathered data. On our presentation day we used a Power Point presentation to explain our hypothesis, methods, and the results that we gathered from the experiment. Using references to articles, we proved that our lab has both an intellectual and scientific structure and purpose. This environment eventually led to discussion and a forum open to questions for members of the group. By introducing this experiment, we hoped to bring up a discussion on human intervention. Humans' presence on this planet is unmistakable. It is evident in the sky rise buildings in large cities, and the small cabins in the middle of untamed forests. By studying the affects of man-made stimuli on spiders, we hoped that our classmates would better comprehend the effect that they have on the world around them.

IV. Results:
After we compiled our data into Stat View, we ran multiple tests. The results of these tests comprise the bulk of our results section. The color-coded graphs represent the location of each spider latitudinally and longitudinally within their environment at each reading. The result is 20 legible graphs that visually represent the data from which we have drawn our conclusions.
Spiders 1-5: Silence - BLUE
Spiders 6-10: Bach - GREEN
Spiders 11-15: Outkast - Bombs over Baghdad - PURPLE
Spiders 16-20: Peter Kruder - Tanto Tempo #1 - PINK
* See graphs following conclusion of lab report.

V. Observations:
After the data was entered and analyzed through Stat View, we observed various trends between graphs of the spiders' movement and orientation within their environments. By analyzing this data in such a way, new avenues were explored as to an explanation for the spiders' behavior. For instance, throughout the graphs of data, the trend for all five groups as far as their longitudinal (angular) orientation remained constant. The spiders didn't tend to be drawn to any specific area of the environment. The graphs, through their erratic pattern, or even lack of a pattern, showed a trend as a whole, but not individually. Another trend was found within the final two groups, spiders 11-20. Although there were a few exceptions, generally the spiders' orientation vertically within their environments tended to be above five units. Spiders 14, 16, 17, and 20 comprise 4/10ths or 40% of this separated group. These are the four spiders that did not exhibit this pattern in their vertical orientation. Thus, we can conclude that 60% of the spiders in this separated group do, in fact, exhibit this pattern. The Bach group gravitated more to orient themselves towards the bottom of their environments. Approximately 60% (3/5ths) of these spiders chose to dwell at or under 5 units.

VI. Discussions and Conclusions:
After analyzing out results we have come to some interesting conclusions. One of the first unexpected findings of our experiment was the lack of a discernable pattern in the orientation of the spiders on the longitudinal axes of their dwelling. There are many possibilities that could explain this phenomenon. Our conclusion refers to area. Because the environments that we provided had such a small circumference (about the size of 4 or 5 spiders), the slightest movement would drastically affect their longitudinal location. The circumference juxtaposes the height of the environment, which was nearly 10-15 spiders long. This would explain the fact that the spiders seem to move around quite a bit, even though they may have only moved a small amount.
The trend that was spotted within the final two groups seems to remain constant even though they were subjected to two different musical choices. Both Outkast's and Peter Kruder's musical compositions have very harsh and strong beats. This, combined with our set-up for data collection, makes this trend more logical. Because the speakers were underneath the spiders, it seems likely that they would orient themselves higher in their environment to distance themselves from these foreign vibrations. We can conclude that the spiders may have found these musical selections threatening or confusing, and may have wished to escape from their presence.
Measurements taken for the Bach group (Spiders 6-10) illuminate the spiders' inclination to remain situated at or below 5 units in their environment. This data is justifiable if you attribute these results to the less invasive vibrations of the Bach music. It seems that this music is a huge contrast to the other two selections, and perhaps it may have emoted feelings of peace and increased their comfort level within their environment. It is interesting to note that the soothing (to human ears) music of classical Bach attracted the spiders and the harsh, pounding beats of Peter Kruder's and Outkast's music warded them off.
Spiders, as mentioned above, were involved in an experiment run by NASA, in which they were subjected to chemical influences. It is easy to see how a chemical change in the body of a small spider could radically affect their patterns of web building and even their orientation. It is more difficult to draw a conclusion from results obtained through environmental manipulation rather than physical exploitation. It is evident from our data, however, that these environmental changes did affect their patterns of orientation. Our experiment is just another piece of evidence to support humanity’s ability to affect the natural world around them.
As a group we still have a few unanswered questions. Is, for example, the effect that this noise had on the spiders positive, negative, or neutral? Our experimental design did not lend itself to the discovery of this answer. The spiders were well provided for in their pseudo-environments by our group. Whether or not this noise would affect how they could trap food, mate, and spin their webs is still yet to be known. All that we observed was that the music did affect them in a common way. Yet another question would concern the possibility of spiders adapting to these unnatural elements in their environments. As humans gradually enter into the spiders’ world, would they become "immune" to the heavy beats, or would they continue to find them invasive? If we look at the spiders in the final two groups who stayed towards the top of the container (above 5 units), the 4 that did not follow this trend may provide an answer for us. They immediately, with the introduction of the music flocked (as the others) to the top, but after 4 or 5 days, they curiously found themselves comfortably situated towards the bottom. Perhaps this is a display of a quick adaptation to this "noise" that invaded their world.
Further investigation into this subject could be quite interesting. Perhaps an experiment that readdresses our problem and hypothesis would be a good route for a future experiment. Or, it could be quite beneficial to design an experiment that would tell us how the music affects the routine of the spiders, and can conclude if this influence is negative, positive, or neutral.

VII. Bibliography:
Barghusen, Laura. The Effects of Temperature on the Web Building Behavior of
the Common House Spider. Oxford: Miami University, 1994.
Foelix, Rainer F. Biology of Spiders. Cambridge: Harvard University Press,
1982.
Highfield, Roger. Drug-test Spiders Weave Their Way Home. 27 Apr 1995. The Electronic Telegraph. 4 Dec 2001 http://www.coffee.co.uk/spiders.html.
Lyon, William F. Spiders In and Around the House. Keith L. Smith. Ohio State University Extension:Entomology. 4 Dec 2001 http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg- fact/2000/2060.html.
Report Claims Music Has An Impact On Youth Violence. Baptist Press. 3 Nov 2001. Maranath Christian Journal. 4 Dec 2001 http://www.mcjonline.com/news/news3242.html.
Rovner, Jerome S, Peter N. Witt. Spider Communication: Mechanisms and
Ecological Significance. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982.

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