If you've always wondered what a 100-million-year-old spider attack might look like, today is your lucky day.
According to a newly published paper, researchers at Oregon State University have found the "only fossil ever discovered of a spider attack on prey caught in its web." The amber-encased spider is poised to devour a tiny parasitic wasp.
Credit: Flickr/Oregon State University
“This was a male wasp that suddenly found itself trapped in a spider web,” George Poinar Jr., a professor emeritus of zoology at the university, said in a written statement. “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 say both the spider and the wasp belong to extinct genera. They added that the "extraordinarily rare" find may provide invaluable insight into the behavior of ancient spiders.
Oregon State University's website writes:
The...fossils are in a piece of amber that preserved this event in remarkable detail, an action that took place in the Hukawng Valley of Myanmar in the Early Cretaceous between 97-110 million years ago, almost certainly with dinosaurs wandering nearby.
Aside from showing the first and only fossil evidence of a spider attacking prey in its web, 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.
Poinar and Ron Buckley, an amber collector from Kentucky, have described the find in a paper published in the most recent issue of the journal Historical Biology. They wrote that while there are other examples of amber-trapped insects caught in spider webs, "this is the first fossil evidence of spider sociality and a fossil spider attacking prey trapped in its web."
This is not the first time in recent weeks that remarkable creepy crawlies have been found fossilized in amber.
In August, the Associated Press reported that scientists found three well-preserved, amber-encased ancient insects in Italy. The insects were said to be about 230 million years old -- about "100 million years older than what had been the previously known oldest critters trapped in fossilized tree resin."
The AP wrote:
While older insects have been found in rock fossils, these are different because they are not compressed and better preserved, said study lead author David Grimaldi, curator of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. And you can see more detail, he said.
"That's the great thing about amber. You can make this incredible detailed comparison with living species." Grimaldi said.
Also on HuffPost:
The rhinoceros beetle (pictured) can push around 850 times its weight.
Largest Invertebrate (Land)
The coconut crab weighs about 6.6 pounds and its legs can span up to two and a half feet Liz Hall from the Melbourne Aquarium inspects Coconut Crab as he takes possesion of a coconut in Melbourne, 19 December 2006. They Coconut crab (also known as the Robber Crab) are the largest living crab in the world and can climb coconut trees to harvest coconuts which they can break with their huge nippers and have been gruesomely know to feed on injured or unconcious people in the bush. (William West, AFP / Getty Images)
The giant squid is the world's largest invertebrate, and the largest ever measured was 59 feet long. Giant squids also have the largest eyes of any animal, each one about the size of a human head.
The etruscan shrew is the smallest mammal (by weight) in the world. The smallest animal by skull size is the bumblebee bat.
Most Venomous Animal
The sea wasp jellyfish (pictured) has enough venom to kill 60 adult humans. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/65578066@N00" target="_hplink">Guido Gautsch/Flickr</a>
Arctic terns migrate about 11,000 miles to the Antarctic each year...and then come all the way back! An Arctic Tern dives down to protect its nest on June 24, 2011 on Inner Farne, England. (Dan Kitwood, Getty Images)
Blue whales' low-frequency pulses can be heard over 500 miles way. At 188 decibels, these sounds are louder than a jet engine. In this picture taken on March 26, 2009, shows a blue whale swimming in the deep waters off the southern Sri Lankan town of Mirissa. (Ishara S. Kodikara, AFP / Getty Images)
World's Most Extreme Animals
North African ostriches run up to 45 miles an hour, making them the fastest land bird. They are also the biggest, weighing up to 345 pounds. An african ostrich eats at the Addo National Elephant Park, north of Port Elizabeth, on June 24, 2010. South Africa is hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup. (Patrick Hertzog, AFP / Getty Images)
Peregrine falcons dive toward their prey at over 200 mph. A young male Peregrine Falcon eats meat taken from the protective glove of Taronga Zoo bird trainer Erin Stone (unseen) following a short flying lesson in Sydney on December 9, 2009. (Greg Wood, AFP / Getty Images)
Sailfish can swim at speeds of up to 68 mph, although experts disagree as to just which species of sailfish is the fastest. Sailfish jumping out of the water on January 16, 2006 in the Florida Keys, Florida. (Ronald C. Modra, Sports Imagery / Getty Images)
Cheetahs can run at speeds up to 70 mph. Majani, a 2-year-old male African cheetah, exhibits lighting speed Friday, March 19, 2004 while chasing a mechanical rabbit at the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park as part of the Park's environmental enrichment program. (Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo / AP)
Three giant tortoises are estimated to have lived over 175 years, with one estimated at a whopping 255 years. Image: Harriet, who died in 2006, was thought to be the third longest-lived tortoise on record. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/doctorow/123660557/" target="_hplink">Cory Doctorow/Creative Commons</a>
World's Most Extreme Animals
African elephants are the heaviest and second tallest land animals. Large males can exceed 13,000 pounds and are 12 feet tall at the shoulder. This photo made on February 10, 2011 shows an elephant in Tsavo west national park, some 350 kilometres southeast of Nairobi. (Tony Karumba, AFP / Getty Images)