The largest spider fossil was unearthed in China dating back 165 million years ago. The spider is from the middle Jurassic era and are known as Eoplectreurys gertschi. It is older than two other spider specimens known by around 120 million years.The level of detail preserved in the fossils is amazing, said paleontologist Paul Selden of the University of Kansas and lead author of the study appearing Feb. 6 in Naturwissenschaften. The fossils were found at a site called Daohugou in Northern China that is filled with fossilized salamanders, small primitive mammals, insects and water crustaceans. During the Jurassic era, the fossil bed was part of a lake in a volcanic region, Selden said.
The little crawlers from this period are rare, because the arachnids’ soft bodies don’t preserve well. The pristine fossil pictured in these photos was probably created when the spider was trapped in volcanic ash. The ultra fine clay particles squashed the spider without breaking up the animals’ delicate cuticle as more coarse sediment would, Selden said.
E. gertschi shows all the features of the modern members of the family, found in North America, suggesting it has evolved very little since the Jurassic period, Selden said. The findings also suggest this family of spiders, the Plectreuridae, was once much more widespread than it is today. Currently, the family has only been found living in California, Arizona, Mexico and Cuba. However, there were 165 million years ago. They lived on a small continent called the North China Block.
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