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300 million year old spider fossil discovered in quarry

More details have come to light after a fossilised spider, believed to be more than 300 million years old, was unearthed in Germany.  

A researcher at the Berlin Museum has revealed further details of the Arthrolycosa wolterbeeki, which is believed to be the oldest fossil of an ancient spider species ever discovered.

The museum’s Jason Dunlop released a research paper into the discovery unearthed in an unused quarry in Osnabrück, Germany.

The Wolterbeeki name comes from the University of Utrecht’s Tim Wolterbeek, who discovered the fossil in the German quarry nearly four years ago.

“It has been almost four years since I found an unidentified arachnid fossil in the Westphalian D (Late Carboniferous) of the Piesberg quarry near Osnabrück, Germany,” he said of his discovery in the Piesberg quarry near Osnabrück in Lower Saxony, Germany.  

“This has been a great experience, as I learned a great deal about arachnids and spiders and spinnerets along the way.”

Dunlop’s research paper, titled The first Palaeozoic spider (Arachnida: Araneae) from Germany, detailed insights into the fascinating discovery.

The spider likely had a body length of a centimetre but a leg span of four centimetres with hair and claws on its legs.

“If fossils like Arthrolycosa wolterbeeki had a similar lifestyle, they may only occasionally have ventured out and would rarely have fallen into the water where they could be preserved as fossils,” Dunlop wrote in the international journal Paläontologische Zeitschrift.

“At the same time, the major evolutionary radiation of spiders into the modern groups probably only started later in the Mesozoic, perhaps alongside radiations of insects, when spiders started building different types of webs to catch an increasing number of flying insects from the air.”

Most people will be thankful that these spiders aren’t creeping and crawling among us today. It’s much safer being a fossil.

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