Behold The Beauty of a 49 Million Year Old Spider


Maybe it's just me, but I see beauty in this. Scientists at the University of Manchester have created high resolution images of a 49 million year old spider encapsulated in fossilized amber resin using X-ray computed tomography, typically used in medical imaging.

If the still image doesn't convince you, I invite you to watch this stunning video revealing 3D images of the little beast.

I wonder if this evidence would give those believing the world was created 6,000 years ago pause. Probably not.

See press release here.

Original citation:
Dunlop, J. A., Penney, D., Dalüge, N., Jäger, P., McNeil, A., Bradley, R., Withers, P. J., Preziosi, R. F. 'Computed tomography recovers data from historical amber: an example from huntsman spiders,' published in Naturwissenschaften.

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What I find most fascinating about this is just how similar this ancient spider looks to many of the modern huntsman spiders still living today -- the arrangement of the eyes, the size and shape of the chelicerae, even the joints of the legs: it's all still there in the living species. 49 million years ago, humans weren't even a blip on the evolutionary map yet; our ancestors were still figuring out the divide between "old world" and "new world" monkeys. That arachnids such as this one could manage to remain largely unchanged in all that time is an amazing testament to what wonderfully adapted critters they are.

Great stuff. It got me thinking, though, that if all these images were charged at the rate of the typical medical scan, it would cost millions of dollars to do!

By Mike Staples (not verified) on 19 May 2011 #permalink

Thanks for the post Jeff. Several years ago I went exploring spider webs around campus and glad I did for the spiderwebs, some of which were very old, were steamcleaned shortly after my photos. We live in a fascinating universe which, unfortunately, many do not or can not appreciate.

Regards: Rob White (currently teaching computer graphics at CCSU)

pictures at:

If these spiders have not changed much in 49M years, what does that say about evolutionary pressure to adapt? About species drift? Raises more questions than answers. Other bugs went extinct in that span and even cockroaches and similar spiders evolved--so why not this species of spider?

By Ray Lopez (not verified) on 19 May 2011 #permalink

Absolutely breathtaking, nature at it's best!

By John Benninger (not verified) on 22 May 2011 #permalink