100 million-year-old spider attack fossil discovered

100 million-year-old spider attack fossil discovered
All About Animals

POSTED: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 - 6:30pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 - 6:34pm

Researchers have found what they believe is a 100-million-year-old spider.

Experts at Oregon State University said the discovery is the only fossil of its kind showing a spider attacking prey caught in its web.

The fossils are in a piece of amber that came from the Hukawng Valley of Myanmar in the Early Cretaceous between 97 million and 110 million years ago. Dinosaurs were almost certainly wandering nearby as the spider moved in on the other prehistoric insect, according to researchers.

At least 15 strands of unbroken spider silk run through the piece of amber, including some ensnaring the wasp.

The same piece of amber also contains the body of a male spider in the same web. Experts said it is the oldest evidence of social behavior in spiders, which still exists in some species today, but is fairly rare.

"This juvenile spider was going to make a meal out of a tiny parasitic wasp, but never quite got to it," said George Poinar Jr., a professor emeritus of zoology at Oregon State University and world expert on insects trapped in amber.

Poinar outlined the findings in a new publication in the journal Historical Biology.

He said the spider was just about to attack when tree resin flowed over the top and captured them both.

Experts believe spiders date back 200 million years, but the oldest fossil evidence of a spider web is only 130 million years old.

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