Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Discovery in a section of amber in Teruel (Spain) of the oldest spider web with its prey in the world

23.06.2006
As much as 110 million years ago, spiders were already weaving complex webs to trap and feed on flying insects. This is confirmed by the discovery of a fragment of spider’s web with adhering insects in a transparent amber stalactite found in Escucha (Teruel). This singular fossil, dating back some 110 million years (Albiense, Early Cretaceous), is the oldest spider’s web with adhering prey to have been found to date and is presented in the June 23 edition of the journal Science, in an article written by the researchers Enrique Peñalver, working with the Cavanilles Institute of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology (University of Valencia), Xavier Delclòs of the Department of Stratigraphy, Palaeontology and Marine Geosciences (University of Barcelona) and David Grimaldi from the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

The discovery was made during a palaeontological field study authorised by the Department of Cultural Heritage of the Autonomous Government of Aragon, and the fossils are kept in the collection of the Museo Fundación Conjunto Paleontológico of Teruel-Dinópolis.

Spiders are arthropods that have played an important ecological role in the terrestrial ecosystem since their origin in the Devonian, approximately 385 million years ago. They are abundant in almost all terrestrial habitats – there can be more than 100 per square metre – and are one of the major predators of insects. Their evolutionary success is due largely to a particular innovation: the use of silk threads and the construction of different types of webs to catch flying and jumping insects. Until now, the oldest known example of this particular characteristic of spiders was a silk strand with sticky droplets found in Lebanese amber (between 138 and 124 million years old). For now, little is known about the origins of spiders’ webs, although older fossil spiders have been found preserving the structure of fine strands used for weaving webs. Amber, a fossilised resin, is almost the only medium in which the fine strands of a spider’s web can remain preserved.

The new fossil from Teruel is the oldest direct evidence of a spider’s web used to trap insects. According to experts, the web was constructed by a spider of the Araneae group. The amber section contained the remains of the web with a variety of prey: a fly, a beetle and a small parasitic wasp that fed on the eggs of beetle species that became extinct more than 80 million years ago. It seems that the insects were a source of food for the spider: their abdomens are broken and full of fossil resin and the spider probably sucked out the internal tissue after injecting digestive juices. Once dead and left empty, the insects remained submerged in the resin. The wasp is also caught by a collection of strands that firmly trap its leg, no doubt a strategy used by the spider to keep it more strongly attached to the web.

The web found in the amber section from Teruel is of great scientific interest for two other reasons: it exhibits droplets that would once have been sticky and the geometry of one fragment shows that the strands making up the web were arranged in a regular pattern. Specifically, the web was circular and formed by a sticky spiral on a system of radial strands. These strands, as in the case of current spiders’ webs, had elastic properties: when broken, after coming into contact with the resin stalactite, some remained in the amber, but became twisted or contracted into balls.

Another interesting point is that the fossil dating coincides with the sudden diversification of flowering plants (angiosperms) and pollinating insects. The oldest fossil flowering plants are also from the Early Cretaceous, a period in which they became an important part of terrestrial mediums, which were inhabited principally by gymnosperms (conifers and similar groups). The great success of flowering plants can be attributed to their symbiotic relationship with insects, which act as efficient pollinators. According to the authors, “thanks to this fossil, we can be certain that spiders influenced the early evolution of pollinating insects”.

Rosa Martínez | alfa
Further information:
http://www.ub.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds
26.05.2017 | Cornell University

nachricht How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system
26.05.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>