Archive for Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fossil find allows KU researcher to study spider development

This photo, courtesy of Paul Selden, shows the recently found spider fossil. The black line at the bottom is 1 millimeter in length.

This photo, courtesy of Paul Selden, shows the recently found spider fossil. The black line at the bottom is 1 millimeter in length.

February 11, 2010


A Kansas University researcher has used a remarkably well-preserved 165 million-year-old spider fossil to trace the history of a current species back to the middle Jurassic period.

Paul Selden, distinguished professor of geology and director of KU’s Paleontological Institute, said it’s unusual to find such fossils, as spiders are relatively soft, land-dwelling animals. Found by one of Selden’s colleagues in northern China, this particular fossil came about because the spider was preserved in a fine volcanic ash.

“It’s quite remarkable, really,” Selden said. “If it had been sand, the spider would have been compressed,” rendering it useless.

The spider, a new species called Eoplectreurys gertschi, shows all the features of its modern-day relatives in the plecteurid family, which today inhabits only California, Arizona, Mexico and Cuba.

The body of this once-widespread spider is approximately 3 mm long.

“They’re remarkably similar” to their modern counterparts, Selden said. “They’re obviously very, very closely related.”

While such a find is rare, scientists were able to gather hundreds of examples from the area, from what was a lake bed near Daohugou, China.

Selden said the spider was the oldest of its group found — though some spiders go back 350 million years.

Because the spider belonged to a more primitive family than those found in earlier time periods, scientists had always thought that such spiders existed, but hadn’t been able to locate the fossil evidence to substantiate it.


Jeff Barclay 8 years ago

This fossil shows all the features of its modern day relatives, yet the spider belonged to a more primitive family than those found in earlier periods. Hmmm. Sounds contradictory to me. When was this volcanic ash deposited? What spider features are missing from this little guy? He looks fully formed, fully functioning to me. I think we are being professionally dupped!

Paul R Getto 8 years ago

Once Sam Brownback becomes governor, this nonsense will stop. As Barclay notes, clearly this fossil was misplaced to confuse us and to raise doubts. Legislation to rewrite the earth's timeline and the science books will quickly settle this conundrum.

Ann Hamil 8 years ago

This is soooo cool!!!! Wish I could find a fossil like this. My inner geek is positively glowing.

Liberty275 8 years ago


Find a political story to parrot your tripe. This story is too cool for you to screw up.

gccs14r 8 years ago

Barclay started it. Apparently his reading comprehension isn't up to snuff.

EarthaKitt 8 years ago

I'm no arachnid paleontologist (though I do play one on TV) but I think the most interesting find with this fossil is that Mr. Bill appears to be a direct descendent of squashed spiders. Does anybody else see it?

Of course I also saw Bob Hope on my toast this morning, so maybe it's me.

Thinking_Out_Loud 8 years ago

Barclay's theologian namesake is rolling over in his grave at this poster's inability to think and self-express cogently.

The fossil itself is absolutely gorgeous. I would like to have one for my own. The fossil, not the spider. Although the spider would live nicely in my terrarium, I think.

yourworstnightmare 8 years ago

Barclay once admitted in a post many years ago that he is the principal of Veritas Christian madrassa.

He must attack evolution to maintain the ideological rigor that is a prerequisite for this position.

It is frightening that this man is entrusted with the education of children.

saoirseglen 8 years ago

The spider was covered by volcanic ash 165 million years ago. That area used to be a lake bed, perhaps in historically recorded times. 165 million years of time can change geography and topography. The area could have been significantly different when the spider lived than it is now. Without enough details in the story I think one may get a false understanding.

salad 8 years ago

Wow! That's so cool! Go scientists, I'm gonna go listen to "I Am A Palentologist" by They Might Be Giants right now.

hungryhustler 8 years ago

what a boring article. I only read it because i thought it would be important since it was on the home page.

The only cool thing about this is that i do see Mr. Bill.

Boston_Corbett 8 years ago

yourworstnightmare hits the nail on the head.

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