ScienceShot: Jurassic Spider Not So Itsy Bitsy

Staff Writer

A new fossil discovered in the Daohugou Beds of northeastern China shows that a modern group of spiders, called golden orb-weavers or Nephila, were on Earth during the Jurassic period about 165 million years ago. The fossil, Nephila jurassica, is a female, and if modern spiders are any guide, was probably much larger than her male counterpart. With a 15-centimeter-plus leg-span, she's the largest fossilized spider ever found, researchers report online today in Biology Letters. She appears to be closely related to the modern web-weaving Nephila spider of the same size. Well-preserved spinnerets on the fossil's abdomen suggest that it, too, spun large, permanent webs: a weapon in an arms race that could have influenced the evolution of insects and small birds that got caught in them.

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Posted in Paleontology, Evolution, Plants & Animals