DiscoveryAlert: 165-Million-Year Old Spider Fossil Found in China


You're looking at Nephila jurassica, a 165-million-year-old spider fossil, a relative of the modern golden orb-weaving spider, recently found in China.

Although it's the largest fossil spider ever found, it is disappointingly small as far an ancient creatures go, measuring is barely 5 centimetres long — though it may have been larger in life, with its legs fully extended. Around 300 million years ago, by comparison, when oxygen levels were much higher than today, invertebrates grew to monstrous sizes with some dragonflies had wingspans of up to a metre, while some millipedes were 2.5 metres long.

The biggest spiders living on the planet today are the Goliath bird-eater (Theraphosa blondi) and the giant huntsman (Heteropoda maxima), both of which have leg spans of 30 centimeters. That's big!

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Image Credit: Paul A. Selden, ChungKun Shih and Dong Ren/Biology Letters


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