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Apility To Adapt Behavior
g[BY BILL LEE
Hmmlv News Staff Writer
K^itta,, and ArahÉBM the. two
space s;p i de\i s whö overcame
weightlessness and^spun; their?
webs aboard the orbiting Sky-
lab, may have proved something
about human behavior in the
beings, may be far more adapt-
able to unique experiences than
we might ^h^&ffinight,
This is the preliminary conclu-
sion drawn by Dr. Peter Witt, a
researcher at Dorothea Dix Hos-
pital in Raleigh, who studies
behavior patterns in spiders.
In-fact, it was.’ pk Witt who
bred and raised Anita and Ara-
bella and chose them for the
space flight. •
IN A LIMITED! SENSE,. Dr.
Witt said1 Thursday, the study of
spiders can; be applied to human
beings.« There* are some things,”
he said, that are common to all
animals in terms of their ability
to modify behavior.
Spiders are unique, he said; in.
that leaves such a detailed
record of his movements ras the
spider in’his geometric web..”
Anita, who later died aboard
Skylab, and Arabella were sent
into space to answer two ques-
tions, said Dr. Witt.
weight and gravity are crucial
to the weaving of a web, what
does a spider do in weightless-
ness? Secondly, how does a liv-
ing being react to a stressful
and very unexpected,« unpre-
pared-for situation ?
Pr. Wittfwas surprised that
the spiders learned to weave
their wehs in outer space.
‘T think it is most surprising
because, it took a readjustment
of everything they have known
before in their behavior,’^! he
* * *
“IF YOU THINK about the
astronauts, how they adapted,”
he> said, -¿‘‘they mal it all by
planning, by reading books, by
making calculations, by having
data from previous flights.
“None of this i6 true fór the
spiders,” he said. “They went
into this wi thou t forewarning
and could not do things like
develop special shoes or handles
hold on to.”
: i,“§b they had to do it in wh a t
you might call -the instinctive
way,” he said; i “and that is
certainly different from the way
“So, if we say that they: are
very much less adaptable than
humans and do not have the
ability of forethought and plan-
ning. then we would expect that
they would be completely help-1
less,” he said!- “But it took them-] just two days to get over it and
manage to spin their webs.”
FROM THEIR performance!
at the higher-than-expected lev-
el, Dr.^Wj^};drétV¿ hisij concju^