Feeds

Scientists reveal eight-legged Jurassic beast

Golden orb weaver 'the largest known fossil spider'

Intelligent flash storage arrays

In delightful news for arachnophobes, scientists have revealed the largest known fossil spider - a 165 million-year-old golden orb weaver whose legs spanned an impressive 15cm.

The fossilised Nephila jurassica. Pic: Paul Selden et alThe female Nephila jurassica (pictured - scale bar represents 5mm) was unearthed in Inner Mongolia. She's not only a record-breaker in legspan, but also pushes back the earliest known example of the Nephila genus to the Middle Jurassic.

The fine specimen was found "encased in volcanic ash at the bottom of what would have been a lake", the BBC explains. Professor Paul Selden, from the University of Kansas, told the Corporation: "You see not just the hairs on the legs but little things like the trichobothria which are very, very fine. They're used to detect air vibrations. There's a very distinct group of them and they're a very distinct size which is typical of this genus."

Selden and fellow reserchers ChungKun Shih and Dong Ren, explain in the journal Biology Letters that Nephilidae "originated somewhere on Pangaea, possibly the North China block, followed by dispersal almost worldwide before the break-up of the supercontinent later in the Mesozoic".

The golden orb weavers survive to this day in tropical and sub-tropical zones worldwide, with females spinning webs up to 1.5 metres in diameter from "a very tough and distinctively golden silk".

The males are a pretty puny bunch, being much smaller than the females in an example of "extreme sexual dimorphism". The researchers are keen to see if that was also true of the ancient Nephila.

Shelden said: "The previous oldest Nephilid is a male from the Cretaceous Period found in Spain. That male is normal sized, whereas in the present day the females are giants.

"So, it looks like we may have this dimorphism going back this great length of time. We'd like to find a male in the deposit to confirm this. All the evidence would suggest the male would be normal size, but we haven't yet located one." ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.