Ancient Spider Attack Caught In Amber

By Amir Khan on October 9, 2012 9:45 AM EDT

Amber Spider
Researchers discovered a 100-million-year-old spider attack caught in amber, giving them the earliest known look into the hunting patterns of these animals. (Photo: Oregon State University)

Researchers discovered a 100-million-year-old spider attack caught in amber, giving them the earliest known look into the hunting patterns of these animals. Found in a Burmese mine, the spider attack dates back to the Early Cretaceous period, between 97 million and 110 million years ago.

The amber chunk contains the spider ready to attack a wasp caught in its web, and also contains 15 intact strands of spider silk, researchers said,

"This juvenile spider was going to make a meal out of a tiny parasitic wasp, but never quite got to it," George Poinar, Jr., study author a zoology professor at Oregon State University, said in a statement. "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."

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Although the spider species is now extinct, the wasp, Cascoscelio incassus, is still around, and known to parasitize spider eggs.  

While there are documented cases of insects caught in a spider's web, "there is no previous fossil record of a spider attacking its ensnared prey," Ron Buckley, an amber collector from Kentucky, wrote in the study, published in the journal Historical Biology.

The amber also contains the body of a second spider, which might be the oldest fossilized evidence of spider social behavior, researchers said.

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