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article imageResearchers find fossil of ancient spider attack

By Leigh Goessl     Oct 12, 2012 in Science
Researchers have announced a finding that they describe is currently one-of-a-kind. The scientists have shared a discovery of a fossilized ancient spider attack, frozen in time inside a piece of amber.
A team from Oregon State University has shared a discovery of a prehistoric spider attack that is approximately 100 million-years-old. This snapshot in time is a rare finding and is the oldest evidence of a spider attack.
“This juvenile spider was going to make a meal out of a tiny parasitic wasp, but never quite got to it,” George Poinar, Jr., a professor emeritus of zoology at Oregon State University and world expert on insects trapped in amber, said in a press release.
Researchers said this event occurred in the Hukawng Valley of Myanmar in the Early Cretaceous Period, and is estimated to have happened between 97 and 110 million years ago. Live Science reported the amber was excavated in a Burmese mine. The interaction was captured when tree resin flowed over the insects and formed amber, preserving the scene.
“This was a male wasp that suddenly found itself trapped in a spider web,” Poinar said. "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.”
Additionally, researchers said the body of another spider, described as a male, was also on the web, along with about 15 strands of spider silk preserved in the amber.
"Most spiders have solitary, often cannibalistic lives, and males will not hesitate to attack immature species in the same web," researchers said and pointed to ancient social behaviors of spiders.
The spiders and wasp species are all now extinct, according to the scientists.
The full research is published in the October issue of the journal Historical Biology.
More about ancient spider, spider attack, prehistoric spiders, ancient spider attack, University of Oregon
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