Animal experimentation, despite its substantial and well-earned controversy, has widely impacted modern medicine's understanding of physiology, genetics, and disease. In spite of these scientific gains, animal testing has also inspired a number of experiments that many consider – even by the most conservative of estimates – to be unethical. Though scientists have developed alternatives to animal testing in recent history, doctors, researchers, and scientists alike have conducted plenty of ludicrous experiments on unsuspecting animals.
This list chronicles the most shocking and morally dubious of these animal-centric experiments. Although some – though certainly not all – of these incidents revealed what are now integral precepts of medicine, the means by which these advances were made leave many, both in and out of the scientific community, conflicted.
Spiders Injected With Drugs Wove Spastic Webs
In 1995, a group of NASA scientists studied the effects of various intoxicants on the web-weaving abilities of spiders. Ostensibly, they sought to determine the relative toxicity levels of the drugs by examining the webs they created while drunk or high.
What followed was most likely confirmation of anticipated results: the spider on weed wove a decent web, albeit incomplete; the spider on speed wove quickly and poorly; the spider on acid wove a scattered, inefficient web; and the web of the spider on caffeine was off-center and asymmetrical.
Baby Jellyfish Were Ejected Into Space
In 1991, Dr. Dorothy Spangenberg was studying the potential effects of zero-gravity on human fetuses. Since testing her research on actual fetuses would have assuredly crossed an ethical line, she and her team packed 2,478 baby jellyfish onto the Space Shuttle Columbia, ejected them into orbit, and watched for results. Initially, the jellyfish adapted well to the environment, and bred themselves up to a population of 60,000.
Sadly, back on Earth, the new jellyfish were found to have greater “pulsing abnormalities” than usual – a syndrome commonly known as “vertigo.” The experiment demonstrated that, hypothetically, humans born in space might experience mobility issues once they land on Earth, similar to the phenomenon of "sea legs," often experienced by seafarers immediately after returning to land.
Cancer Researchers Made Frogs' Skin Transparent
To help further their insight into organ growth and tumor development, in 2007, Japanese cancer researchers at Hiroshima University bred transparent frogs, whose internal organs are visible through their skin. This startling breed was, surprisingly, an accident, as the scientists meant to create frogs who glowed green by attaching fluorescent protein to a stretch of their DNA. When the fluorescent frogs mated, however, one out of every 16 was born with transparent skin.
A Monkey's Head Was Transplanted Onto Another Body
American researcher Robert White performed the world's first successful monkey-head transplant on March 14, 1970. In a carefully choreographed operation, White removed a monkey's head from its body and placed it on that of a beheaded specimen. Astonishingly, the monkey awoke and tried to bite one of the surgeons. The transplant recipient survived nine days before dying.