Ancient fossil showing spider attack is one-of-a-kind

Oct 13, 2012
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Ancient fossil showing spider attack is one-of-a-kind

Researchers have discovered a piece of amber encasing the fossil of a spider attacking an insect in its web, and it is believed to be the only one of its kind. The 100 million-year-old fossil also includes a male spider, giving scientists a glimpse into the social aspect of arachnids, something that is present in modern times, yet not terribly common. The fossil originates from the Hukawng Valley in Myanmar.

Said professor George Poinar, Jr., zoology professor at Oregon State University:

"This juvenile spider was going to make a meal out of a tiny parasitic wasp, but never quite got to it. This was a male wasp that suddenly found itself trapped in a spider web. This was the wasp’s worst nightmare, and it never ended. The wasp was watching the spider just as it was about to be attacked, when tree resin flowed over and captured both of them."

It is believed that spiders originate from about 200 million years ago, however, the oldest spider web fossil discovered is aged from around 130 million years ago. If a fossil has ever been discovered featuring a spider attack, it has never been documented. Even if another fossil did turn up showing a spider attack, it's unlikely it would feature the second spider as well.

The amber was formed from tree resin, which flowed over the spiders, the web, and the unfortunate wasp moments before the attack. Amber is semi-precious and known for preserving very detailed fossils that provide scientists with a picture that may, as the image above does, tell a story. As far as this particular fossil goes, it tells the sad story of a spider who died hungry.

[via Oregon State University]


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