Planet Earth

Egad! Oldest Spider Web Dates Back to Dinosaur Era

DiscoblogBy Adam HadhazyDec 15, 2008 11:38 PM

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A British paleobiologist thinks he's found traces of the oldest spider web on record. Millimeter-thin strands of the presumed web have remained trapped, Jurassic Park-style, in fossilized tree resin (better known as amber) for eons. An amateur fossil hunter stumbled upon the chunk of archaic amber on a beach in southern England. Martin Brasier, the Oxford University scientist who examined the specimen under a microscope, estimates the encapsulated web dates back some 140 million years to the Cretaceous period. That's in the heyday of the dinosaurs, well before they went extinct about 65 million years ago. Though not a full web, the preserved strands still form a circular pattern that resembles the orbs spun by modern-day arachnids the world over. Prior to this announcement, the oldest known spider web clocked in at about 130 million years old, said Brasier. Unfortunately, no fossilized bits of freshly caught dinner or remnants of past meals made it into the preserved section of web. Missing, too, was the spider itself. Related Content: DISCOVER: How Spiders Make Their Silk DISCOVER: Stalking SpidersImage credit: Flickr/ dann solo

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