Scientists Unearth World's Largest Spider Fossil

By Meera Dolasia on April 24, 2011

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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

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599 Comments
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  • nice foboThursday, January 22, 2015 at 10:58 am
    true that cool man
    • cool manThursday, January 22, 2015 at 10:57 am
      epic and awesome
      • LoganThursday, December 11, 2014 at 3:04 pm
        Spiders are cool but this is weird. When eat bugs it is good
        • owenq3752
          owenq3752Friday, December 5, 2014 at 2:14 pm
          I'd probably kiss it
          • owenq3752
            owenq3752Friday, December 5, 2014 at 2:14 pm
            I love spider your are all just haters...HATTERss
            • doomsday
              doomsdayWednesday, December 17, 2014 at 1:22 pm
              Hey I'm cool with spiders ,but my older brother isn't
              • katniss454
                katniss454Tuesday, January 13, 2015 at 2:17 pm
                i like them i am just really scared of them
            • I hate spiderMonday, December 1, 2014 at 5:33 pm
              😵😵😵😵 that what will happen to me when I see spider and yuck!!!
              • NourishedCometTuesday, November 18, 2014 at 10:58 am
                True that, Jcb!
                • jcbThursday, November 13, 2014 at 12:04 pm
                  I dont like spiders ewww!!
                  • jackysmacky
                    jackysmackyThursday, November 6, 2014 at 5:09 pm
                    Awwwsome
                    • omgWednesday, November 5, 2014 at 3:08 pm
                      Lol😲

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