Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Ancient sea spider fossils discovered in volcanic ash


A computer reconstruction of Haliestes (artificially colored, above), and a modern sea spider, Nymphon (bleached, below), which is about 50% larger, and with longer legs.

Volcanic ash that encased and preserved sea life in the Silurian age 425 million years ago near Herefordshire, UK has yielded fossils of an ancient sea spider, or pycnogonid, one of the most unusual types of arthropod in the seas today.

Sea spiders are soft-bodied arthropods, found widely in modern oceans. For two-centuries there has been a controversy about the relationship of sea spiders to land spiders, scorpions, ticks and mites because of their unique body form. Sea spiders have a long proboscis and unusual limb structures used in mating and carrying brooding embryos. The fossil record of their relationship is sparse because of their delicate nature.

"This is the earliest adult fossil example, and it is preserved in extraordinary detail," said author Derek Briggs, professor of geology and geophysics, and Director of the Yale Institute of Biospheric Studies. "Volcanic ash that trapped ancient sea life in this location rapidly encased the creatures making a concrete-like cast of the bodies. The cavity later filled in with carbonate solids so we have a fossil record to study now."

To create a picture of the fossils, the specimens were ground away a few microns at a time, each slice digitally imaged, and then the whole reconstructed using computer graphics. The reconstruction suggests that these exotic animals are indeed related to land spiders, scorpions, mites and ticks.

The new species, Haliestes dasos,, represents the earliest known adult sea spider by 35 million years. Its large pincers place the sea spiders firmly within a larger grouping that includes scorpions, mites, ticks, the real spiders and the horseshoe crab. Despite its ancient, Silurian age the new species appears to have lived in a similar way to modern ones, on the seabed, or perhaps on sponges.

The research was carried out as part of a project on the Herefordshire fauna by a team made up of Derek Siveter and Mark Sutton at Oxford, Derek Briggs at Yale, and David Siveter at Leicester. The group has made a number of other spectacular finds of soft-bodied organisms in the same deposit including crustaceans, a worm-like mollusc, a polychaete worm, and a starfish, and much that remains to be described.

Janet Rettig Emanuel | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>