Feeds

Scientists reveal eight-legged Jurassic beast

Golden orb weaver 'the largest known fossil spider'

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

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." ®

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Bacon-related medical breakthrough wins Ig Nobel prize
Is there ANYTHING cured pork can't do?
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Stray positrons caught on ISS hint at DARK MATTER source
Landlubber scope-gazers squint to horizons and see anti-electron count surge
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
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?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.