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Amber-entombed spider is 20m years old

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A Manchester scientist has found a 20-million year-old spider, perfectly preserved in a lump of amber.

University of Manchester paleontologist Dr. David Penny, who found the spider in the Dominican Republic managed to extract some of the spider's blood, which was then tested to reveal the specimen's age.

According to reports, this is the first time ancient spider blood has been found preserved in amber. The discovery has provoked speculation that it might still be possible to extract DNA from the sample.

The blood in the amber also reveals something about how the spider died, Dr. Penny says.

He says that the shape of the droplets suggests how the spider was moving when it became trapped in tree resin:

"By analysing the position of the spider's body in relation to the droplets of blood in the amber we are able to determine how it died, which direction it was travelling in and even how fast it was moving," he said.

He speculates that the spider, a newly identified species, was running up a tree when it was hit by the resin. As it struggled to free itself from its sticky prison, several of its legs broke, Dr. Penny says.

His research is published in the current edition of Paleontology. ®

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