Researchers in Oregon discovered a 100-million-year-old chunk of amber that contains a prehistoric spider on the verge of devouring a wasp caught in its web.
The fossil was dug up in the Hukawng Valley in north Burma and is the first that researchers have ever uncovered showing a spider about to attack its prey, reports The New York Daily News. George Poinar, Jr., Oregon State zoology professor and co-author of a paper about the fossil, stated:
“This juvenile spider was going to make a meal out of a tiny parasitic wasp, but never quite got to it. This was the wasp’s worst nightmare, and it never ended.”
Poinar Jr. added:
“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 that the spider and wasp, both of whom are now extinct, were alive during the Early Cretaceous period between 97 and 110 million years ago.
A paper about the discovery was published in the October issue of Historical Biology in which Poinar and his co-author Ron Buckley write that the amber also trapped the body of a second male web-weaver, suggesting that spiders were social and spent time together — even 100 million years ago.
KPTV notes that the same social behavior still exists in some species, though it is rare today. Poinar stated that the spider was preparing to attack when the tree resin covered both of the insects. Along with the spiders and parasitic wasp, researchers also found 15 strands of unbroken spider silk inside the piece of amber including some that are ensnaring the wasp.
While experts believe that the prehistoric spiders date back to 200 million years, the oldest fossil evidence is dated to 130 years.