Remember the scene in “Jurassic Park” when John Hammond explains that to clone dinosaurs, his researchers had to extract DNA from mosquitoes fossilized in amber? Amber is a gold mine for seeing snapshots of the ancient past. Oregon State University researchers have discovered what they believe is the first ever 100 million-year-old spider attack, frozen in fossilized amber. The photograph shows the spider hovering over the victim, caught in the spider’s web. The findings are to be published in the journal Historical Biology.
Apparently the ancient spider attack occurred in the Hukawng Valley of Myanmar during the Early Cretaceous some 97-110 million years ago.
According to the press release, “the piece of amber also contains the body of a male spider in the same web. This provides the oldest evidence of social behavior in spiders, which still exists in some species but is fairly rare. Most spiders have solitary, often cannibalistic lives, and males will not hesitate to attack immature species in the same web.”
“This juvenile spider was going to make a meal out of a tiny parasitic wasp, but never quite got to it,” said George Poinar, Jr., a professor emeritus of zoology at Oregon State University and world expert on insects trapped in amber.
“This was a male wasp that suddenly found itself trapped in a spider web,” Poinar said. “This was the wasp’s worst nightmare, and it never ended. The wasp was watching the spider just as it was about to be attacked, when tree resin flowed over and captured both of them.”
Researchers believe spiders date back 200 million years, but the oldest fossil evidence—an ancient spider web—is about 130 million years ago.
Poinar said that the wasp belongs to a group that is known today to parasitize spider and insect eggs. The spider, an orb-weaver, might not even simply been on the hunt for food, but carrying out some “payback.” Vicious little fuckers.