The Itsy-Bitsy Spider?

April 21, 2011 at 11:28 PM (Uncategorized)

The itsy-bitsy spider, my ass!  We all know that there are some pretty large spiders out there.  One of the main reasons that people fear spiders is due to some of their unusually (unnecessarily…) large sizes.  Some of the recent studies give updates on information about the latest findings of spiders from prehistoric times.

Geological and paleontological studiers have revealed details about the remains of an ancient spider.  This was found in a mountainous, volcanic region of China.  The scientists were in the area of Inner Mongolia, likely within the land around the Greater Hinggan Mountains.

The excavations of the scientists delved into areas of volcanic ash.  Within the area, several fossilized remains were found.  Yet, the remains of the ancient exoskeleton of this spider, labeled as Nephila jurassica, stood out because of it’s unusual size.  Unlike other spiders of that time period, this arachnid was as large as spiders living today.  It’s body was a full-inch wide, with legs as long as six inches!

This size is not usual for ancient spider findings.  However, some excavations have revealed arachnids that are designated as an extinct genetic branch of spiders called Mesothelae.  These are said to have been as large as an average person’s head!  Reseach revealed that these spiders were able to grow so large because of elevated levels of oxygen in the air of an ancient Earth. 

This particular, fossilized finding was female, which does indicate that the size trend among spiders has extended throughout the species’ history.  The female spiders generally are larger than male spiders.  Nephila jurassica is not the oldest finding of a spider, as it is 165 million years old.  Other arachnid remains that have been found in England date back 310 million years!  

Fossil female golden orb-weaver spider (Nephila jurassica) from the Middle Jurassic of China.
CREDIT: Paul Selden.



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