Eight-Limbed Geniuses

Science Fields

The secret’s out! Researchers reveal how itsy bitsy spiders build intricate and beautiful webs using artificial intelligence.

Not all spiders build webs however all spiders produce silk to survive. Silk helps spiders move from place to place, trap prey and it is even used for courtship. 

A new study by Johns Hopkins behavioral biologist Andrew Gordus and colleagues sheds light on the fascinating web building skills of arachnids. For this study, the researchers created a laboratory environment where six hackled orb weaver spiders, native to the western United States, were individually placed on a plexiglass box under infrared light. The nightly camera recordings of the orb-weavers provided Gordus and the research team with detailed information about the spiders’ particular limb movements during their web-building sessions. 

Abel Corver, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins explains that “It’s just too much to go through every frame and annotate the leg points by hand, so we trained machine vision software to detect the posture of the spider, frame by frame, so we could document everything the legs do to build an entire web.”

Through data analysis and movement-tracking software, the researchers were able to come up with an algorithm that predicts where on the web a spider is working based on its leg position. 

The researchers are eager to explore the web-building skills of these tiny geniuses further by studying their brains using mind-altering drugs. Gordus and colleagues are specifically interested in finding out which brain-circuits are involved in web-building.  

According to Corver, spiders are fascinating “because here you have an animal with a brain built on the same fundamental building blocks as our own, and this work could give us hints on how we can understand larger brain systems, including humans.”

Hopefully, this study helped you develop a newfound appreciation for spiders even if you do not want them in your home!  We will be sure to follow up on what Andrew Gordus and colleagues find out next.


  • 1. Corver, A., Wilkerson, N., Miller, J., & Gordus, A. (2021). Distinct movement patterns generate stages of spider web building. Current Biology; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.09.030
  • 2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/11/211101105356.htm
  • 3. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/spiderwebs-explained
  • 4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHS5MOg5dyc