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 Oldest spider web snared in amber
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 06/22/2006 :  16:15:34  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
Due to a very lucky find, fascinating new light is being cast on the evolution of spiders, their prey, and on their shared environment 136 million years ago:
quote:
Oldest-ever Spider Web Discovered in Amber

By Bjorn Carey, LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 22 June, 2006, 2:01pm ET

A spider's orb web is one of the most impressive architectural feats in nature, capturing morning dew and insect meals with equal grace.

But webbing rarely stands the test of time, especially over millions of years, and researchers have few samples of ancient web to study.

Now, scientists have found 136-million-year-old piece of amber encasing pieces of web and trapped insects that helps fill in the gaps of the origin of orb webs. The finding also indicates predatory spiders likely played a role in the evolution of flying insects.

The study is detailed in the June 23 issue of the journal Science.

Ancient amber

The hunk of amber, which was collected in Spain, contains 26 web strands with a mite, a wasp leg, and a beetle stuck to some of the thread by visible droplets of web "glue." Although these insects are extinct, their size and diversity match the type of prey caught in modern webs.

"The advanced structure of this fossilized web, along with the type of prey that the web caught, indicates that spiders have been fishing insects from the air for a very long time," said study co-author David Grimaldi of the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

The amber is the oldest known example of a web with trapped insects. Although only few pieces of the web remain, the arrangement of the preserved bits strongly suggests an orb web design.

Driving diversity

The orientation of the web indicates that it was strung between objects and hung in the air. The emergence of hanging spider webs might have influenced the evolution of flying insects.

For example, Grimaldi said, members of the family Lepidoptera, which includes moths and butterflies, are covered in scales that allow them to tumble out of sticky webs.

"And it happens that Lepidoptera evolved around the same time that spiders produced these webs," Grimaldi told LiveScience.

The types of insects caught in the fossilized web are important pollinators today, and may have been darting from flowering plant to flowering plant when they were captured by the web. Agile, powerful fliers with good vision, such as bees, would also stand a better chance of avoiding webs, much as they do today. Small, weak flies or less nimble fliers would have been, and still are, more commonly ensnared.

How webs work

The finding sets the minimum age for the common ancestor of the two groups of spiders that weave orb webs, Araneoidea and Deinopoidea.

Because the two groups use different tricks to snag prey—Deinopoids create a Velcro-like surface to catch insects while Araneoids cover their webbing with a sticky "glue" substance—scientists had long believed the orb web design was an example of convergent evolution, a process in which two organisms develop remarkably similar traits.

Along with the age of the amber fossil, genetic analysis of the two spider families, detailed in another paper in the same issue of Science, indicates a common origin for orb web design.

. . .




Amber from Spain showing preserved
spider webbing that has trapped
several insects. Credit: Science




These images show two types of orb webs.
The left image shows the orb web of a
deinopoid spider, Waitkera waitakerensis
from Piha, New Zealand. The right image
shows the orb web of an araneoid spider,
Argiope trifasciata, from Palo Alto,
California. Credit: Brent Opell (left)
and Mark Chappell (right).


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.

Edited by - HalfMooner on 06/22/2006 16:20:30

Zebra
Skeptic Friend

USA
354 Posts

Posted - 06/23/2006 :  00:01:58   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Zebra a Private Message
Very cool! There was at least one prior report, in 2003, of spider web being found in amber - but this sample contains much more web, and captured insects.

quote:
The finding sets the minimum age for the common ancestor of the two groups of spiders that weave orb webs, Araneoidea and Deinopoidea.

Because the two groups use different tricks to snag prey—Deinopoids create a Velcro-like surface to catch insects while Araneoids cover their webbing with a sticky "glue" substance—scientists had long believed the orb web design was an example of convergent evolution, a process in which two organisms develop remarkably similar traits.

Along with the age of the amber fossil, genetic analysis of the two spider families, detailed in another paper in the same issue of Science, indicates a common origin for orb web design.


Any more info available on the other paper in the same edition of Science? I'm not finding anything about it online. Sounds like it casts new light on the evolution of orb web spinners...

I think, you know, freedom means freedom for everyone* -Dick Cheney

*some restrictions may apply
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 06/23/2006 :  05:36:57   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
Sorry, I got this from LiveScience's own article, based upon the Science one. I presume the writer at LiveScience has better direct access to Science's site than I do. Access is on a subscription or pay-per-article basis there.




Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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Zebra
Skeptic Friend

USA
354 Posts

Posted - 06/23/2006 :  19:25:08   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Zebra a Private Message
Yeah, and I'm too cheap to pay...

I think, you know, freedom means freedom for everyone* -Dick Cheney

*some restrictions may apply
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