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
586 Comments
to use your custom avatar.
  • junk faceWednesday, October 15, 2014 at 2:40 pm
    pretty big spiders
    • kicks345Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 2:35 pm
      creepy
      • bro14Monday, August 4, 2014 at 2:56 pm
        that's creepy but awesome at the same time
        • conMonday, August 4, 2014 at 2:49 pm
          awisom
          • destiny0484
            destiny0484Friday, July 25, 2014 at 4:21 pm
            if u don't like spiders press thumbs up
            • destiny0484
              destiny0484Friday, July 25, 2014 at 4:20 pm
              i don't like spiders at all
              • bossboy123
                bossboy123Thursday, June 5, 2014 at 4:02 pm
                that is coooool!! (:-]
                • miguelThursday, April 24, 2014 at 12:23 pm
                  i love that
                  • MariborFriday, April 11, 2014 at 11:56 am
                    Love them 2
                    • SomerandomdonkyFriday, April 11, 2014 at 11:51 am
                      Cool I <3 spiders.

                      Vocabulary

                      arthropod

                      Geography

                      Most Popular Articles

                      The World's Deepest Pool Is Scarily . . . Deep!
                      Making Sense Of The Ebola Virus
                      Candy That Doesn't Cause Cavities? Sweet!
                      The World's Deepest Pool Is Scarily . . . Deep!
                      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 - If Frozen Was A Horror Movie . . .

                      Latest Comments

                      Hinaaaaaa wrote:

                      It's not worth it for me
                      Trouble – The Twelve Million Dol...

                      FlufflePuff(mlp wrote:

                      aww so cute
                      Dorset's Pint-Sized 'Mayor' Lose...

                      jinxshadow
                      jinxshadow wrote:

                      I completly miss it :'( I wante...
                      Get Ready For 2014's Second And ...

                      ALA