November 2, 2009

Spider Web Is Oldest On Record

Scientists have confirmed that spider webs discovered in Britain are the oldest on record, dating back 140 million years to the Cretaceous period.

The webs, which were enclosed in amber, were discovered on a beach in East Sussex by fossil hunter Jamie Hiscocks and his brother Jonathan.

Professor Martin Brasier, a paleobiologist at the Oxford University, said the fossils were the earliest spider webs ever to be entered into the fossil record.

"This amber is very rare. It comes from the very base of the Cretaceous, which makes it one of the oldest ambers anywhere to have inclusions in it," BBC News quoted Brasier as saying.

"These spiders are distinctive and leave little sticky droplets along the spider web threads to trap prey," he said.

"We actually have the sticky droplets preserved within the amber. These turn out to be the earliest webs that have ever been incorporated in the fossil record to our knowledge."

According to Professor Brasier's research, the spider that spun the web is related to the modern day garden spider, or orb-web spider.

Scientists believe the web became ensnared in conifer resin following a forest fire, and then became fossilized inside the resulting amber.

The Hiscocks brothers also discovered the fossilized remains of an Iguanodon jawbone on the coastline in Bexhill.

Professor Brasier published his findings in the Journal of the Geological Society.


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