Scientists Unearth World's Largest Spider Fossil

By Meera Dolasia on April 24, 2011

Word Search

A team of scientists from the Paleontological Institute at the University of Kansas recently unearthed what is believed to be the largest spider fossil ever found. Discovered near the Daohugou village in Northeastern China, the perfectly preserved specimen named Nephila jurassica is a close relative of the modern day Golden Silk Orb Weaver.

Experts estimate that the arthropod is about 165 million years old and inhabited the earth during the middle Jurassic era. What surprised the paleontologists was its rather puny size, which measured 5 centimeters when curled up and about 2 inches when stretched from end to end. That's because the Nephila jurassica lived during a period when oxygen levels were much higher, causing similar insects to grow to almost monstrous sizes. For example, back then dragon flies sported a wingspan of up to a meter, while millipedes measured a whopping 2.5 meters long. In fact, even its modern day relative, then Golden Silk Orb Weaver is much bigger, with the female spider growing as large as 5 inches.

Similar to today's Golden Orb Weaver, this one also had spinnerets or silk spinning organs on its leg, suggesting that it too was capable of spinning large durable webs, to trap insects.

Scientists believe that the ancient spider has been around for over 350 million years, when the Earth was one big supercontinent known as Pangaea. However, the species was well spread out by the time it broke up into seven continents and can therefore be found in many parts of the world today. Since it thrives in tropical climate experts speculate that Daohugoa region used to be warmer and much more humid, then it is today.

While this is the largest spider fossil, it is not the oldest one found. Prior to this, scientists have unearthed fossils of two other spider species estimated to be 310 million years old.

Golden silk orb-weavers are named after the color of the spider silk with which they weave their beautiful golden webs that are large enough to trap insects, bats and even birds. While not as lethal as the Black Widow spider, the venom of these arthropods can cause a discomfort and redness to human victims for about 24 hours. Since they thrive in tropical climates, they are quite commonly found in many parts of the world, including Australia, Asia and in Africa, especially Madagascar where they are known to build giant golden webs that sometimes extend across roads.

Resources: physorg.com, newscientist.com

Share by EmailShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TwitterShare on tumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on PinterestShare on RedditShare on Edmodo
582 Comments
to use your custom avatar.
  • destiny0484
    destiny04847/25/2014
    if u don't like spiders press thumbs up
    • destiny0484
      destiny04847/25/2014
      i don't like spiders at all
      • bossboy123
        bossboy1236/5/2014
        that is coooool!! (:-]
        • miguel4/24/2014
          i love that
          • Maribor4/11/2014
            Love them 2
            • Somerandomdonky4/11/2014
              Cool I <3 spiders.
              • insectboy3/24/2014
                AWESOME!
                • prodigy10
                  prodigy103/16/2014
                  wow I looked on my shoulder to see if there's a spider there while i was this.
                  • darkhorse
                    darkhorse3/14/2014
                    spiders are cool
                    • likeaboss3/5/2014
                      COOL

                      Vocabulary

                      arthropod

                      Geography

                      Most Popular Articles

                      It's Summertime Summertime Sum Sum Summertime . . .
                      Hong Kong Invaded By 1600 Paper Mache Pandas!
                      Hong Kong Invaded By 1600 Paper Mache Pandas!
                      Japanese Scientist Builds Robots That Look Eerily Human
                      National Ice Cream Month Starts Today!
                      Minecraft As A Mandatory Subject In School? Sweet!
                      Boo Mania Sweeps Over America (And The World)!
                      Are You Ready To 'Gangnam Style'?
                      Video Of The Week - World's Youngest Successful Singer!

                      Latest Comments

                      justinrock wrote:

                      summer is the best olivia
                      Get Ready To Celebrate Summer So...

                      cupcake105cutel wrote:

                      summer is the best kevin
                      It's Summertime Summertime Sum S...

                      cupcake105cutel wrote:

                      cool right
                      It's Summertime Summertime Sum S...

                      ALA