A novice fossil hunter investigating a shale site just outside of Jinju in South Korea recently came across something very out of the ordinary when they discovered what has turned out to be the rare fossil of a 110-million-year-old spider with deeply glowing eyes, which enabled it to successfully hunt for prey.
As the Daily Mail reports, the spider, called a lagonomegopid, was extremely well-preserved within the rock it has been held in for what scientists have estimated is around 110 million years, making this staggering find even more precious.
This discovery marks the first time that scientists have ever come across a tapetum, which is what allows spiders like these to have such glowingly reflective eyes. This is also the first time that a lagonomegopid has been found encased anywhere else besides amber.
The three individuals responsible for discovering this spider are Tae-Yoon Park from the Korea Polar Research Institute; Paul Selden, who is the director of the Paleontological Institute; and Kye-Soo Nam, who is still a high school student.
When insects and spiders of this age are found, they are generally recovered from amber rather than rock, as amber enables their bodies to survive for much longer periods of time. As Selden noted, the first thing that was noticed about the fossil of the 110-million-year old spider was its fiercely bright eyes.
“Because these spiders were preserved in strange slivery flecks on dark rock, what was immediately obvious was their rather large eyes brightly marked with crescentic features.”
Scientists uncover rare 110 MILLION year old spider fossils with eerie glowing eyes used to help them hunt at night https://t.co/blaMn45MUx
— Daily Mail Online (@MailOnline) February 18, 2019
Discovering a fossil like this is extremely rare and allows scientists to learn more about how lagonomegopid spiders lived between 110 and 113 million years ago, and it is thought that the unique tapetum that can be found within the eyes of these spiders enabled them to hunt much better than other spiders in the dark of night.
As Selden stated, “It’s opening up a whole new world about how these things lived and how they would have caught their prey.”
But it isn’t just lagonomegopid spiders who have glowing eyes. Wolf spiders also have reflective eyes thanks to the tapetum behind their eyes which takes in light and bounces it right back into their retinas.
Cats also have tapetums, which shouldn’t surprise anybody, which is why when they are exposed to the flashes of cameras their eyes look like laser slits.
The class of spiders like the one that was recently discovered with glowing eyes in South Korea are nevertheless different as their tapetums have been found to be canoe-shaped, which helps scientists to separate them from other spider families.
Discussing how these spiders were so different from others, Selden explained, “This is an extinct family of spiders that were clearly very common in the Cretaceous and were occupying niches now occupied by jumping spiders that didn’t evolve until later. But these spiders were doing things differently. Their eye structure is different from jumping spiders.”
The new study on the research into the 110-million-year fossil of the spider with the glowing eyes found in a rock formation in South Korea has been published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.