Amber reveals ecology of 30 million year old spiders

Mar 06, 2006

Scientists at The University of Manchester and the Manchester Metropolitan University have carried out the first comparative scientific study of ancient spiders trapped in amber more than 30 millions years ago.

The study of fossilised spiders from the Baltic (Poland) and the Dominican (Caribbean) regions has revealed new insights into the ecologies of spiders dating back to the Cenozoic period.

It is the first time ancient spiders from different parts of the world have been compared on such a large scale. 671 species of spiders were compared in the study which is published in the March issue of the Royal Society's Journal Biology Letters.

Palaeoarachnologist Dr David Penney, of The University of Manchester's School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences who led the research, said: "Amber provides a unique window into past forest ecosystems. It retains an incredible amount of information, not just about the spiders themselves, but also about the environment in which they lived.

"We have not only been able to compare the size distributions of over 600 spiders but we have also been able to gain unique insights into the forest in which they lived."

By analysing the size distributions of the spiders and comparing the distinct hunting traits of each species, Dr Penney found that web-spinning spiders were bigger in Baltic amber than in Dominican amber, but that there was no difference between hunting spiders in either region. It was also found the fauna of the amber producing trees in each region accounted for this difference in size.

"Several lines of evidence show that greater structural complexity of Baltic compared to Dominican amber trees explains the presence of larger web-spinners. The Dominican trees are long, thin and smooth whereas the Baltic trees are wide and bushy, providing a much better environment for web-spinners to prosper," says Dr Penney.

The study demonstrates for the first time that spiders trapped in amber can be scientifically compared across deep time (30 million years). This is due to the fact that until now it was unknown whether the amber resins were trapping organisms uniformly. This study proves they were.

Source: University of Manchester

Explore further: Awarded a Pell Grant? Better double-check

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Great white shark choked by sea lion

1 hour ago

A great white shark that washed up on an Australian beach this week had a sea lion stuck in its throat which likely caused its death, fisheries officials said Thursday.

Bitcoin 'mining pool' promises to stay small

1 hour ago

The largest group of bitcoin miners, which maintains and processes transactions in the digital currency, is promising to avoid majority control of the currency as a temporary measure to maintain the payment system's credibility.

Airbnb remodels online home

2 hours ago

Online lodgings listings service Airbnb on Wednesday took the wraps off a major remodel of its online home complete with a new logo.

Can Modi clean the Ganges, India's biggest sewage line?

2 hours ago

Standing on the banks of the river Ganges a day after his election triumph, Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed to succeed where numerous governments have failed: by cleaning up the filthy waterway beloved ...

Recommended for you

Awarded a Pell Grant? Better double-check

5 hours ago

(AP)—Potentially tens of thousands of students awarded a Pell Grant or other need-based federal aid for the coming school year could find it taken away because of a mistake in filling out the form.

Ultra high definition TVs boost LG Display profit

13 hours ago

(AP)—LG Display Co. said profit for the April-June quarter more than doubled as a stronger won reduced the value of its foreign debt and the World Cup boosted demand for ultra-high-definition TVs.

Drugmaker GSK slashes annual profits forecast

13 hours ago

British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline on Wednesday slashed its 2014 profits forecast as second-quarter earnings sank on the back of weak US trade, adverse currency moves and a Chinese bribery probe.

Perthites wanted for study on the Aussie lingo

13 hours ago

We all know that Australians speak English differently from the way it's spoken in the UK or the US, and many of us are aware that Perth people have a slightly different version of the language from, say, Melbournians - but ...

User comments : 0