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100 Million-Year-Old Spider Attack Preserved In Unique Fossil

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Screen grab of "the only fossil ever discovered that shows a spider attacking prey in its web. Preserved in amber, it's about 100 million years old." (Credit: Oregon State University)

Screen grab of “the only fossil ever discovered that shows a spider attacking prey in its web. Preserved in amber, it’s about 100 million years old.” (Credit: Oregon State University)

CORVALLIS, Ore. (CBS Seattle) – Experts at Oregon State University have discovered a one-of-a-kind fossil in which an ancient spider is forever frozen in the process of attacking its prey.

“The extraordinarily rare fossils are in a piece of amber that preserved this event in remarkable detail an action that took place in the Hukawng Valley of Myanmar in the Early Cretaceous between 97-110 million years ago, almost certainly with dinosaurs wandering nearby,” a release posted on the OSU website said.

OSU zoology professor emeritus George Poinar, Jr. described the scene etched in the fossil in further detail while writing about it for the journal Historical Biology.

“This juvenile spider was going to make a meal out of a tiny parasitic wasp, but never quite got to it,” he said. “This was a male wasp that suddenly found itself trapped in a spider web – this was the wasp’s worst nightmare, and it never ended.”

He added, “The wasp was watching the spider just as it was about to be attacked, when tree resin flowed over and captured both of them.”

In addition to the attack, the fossil also included a second spider in the web, which indicated to researchers evidence of social behaviors in the ancient arachnids.

An estimated 15 strands of intact spider silk run throughout the fossil as well, the release noted.

The species of both the wasp and the spider are reportedly now extinct.

“This type of wasp … belongs to a group that is known today to parasitize spider and insect eggs,” the release added. “In that context, the attack by the spider, an orb-weaver, might be considered payback.”

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