[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 30 September 2005, 09:13 GMT 10:13 UK
Spider 'is 20 million years old'
The spider died engulfed in sticky amber

A scientist has described a spider that was trapped and preserved in amber 20 million years ago.

Palaeontologist Dr David Penney, of the University of Manchester, found the 4cm long by 2cm wide fossil during a visit to a museum in the Dominican Republic.

Since the discovery two years ago, he has used droplets of blood in the amber to reveal the age of the specimen.

It is thought to be the first time spider blood has been found in amber and scientists hope to extract its DNA.

Dr Penney, of the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, said he had used the blood droplets to trace how, when and where the spider died.

It is a new species from the Filistatidae family commonly found in South America and the Caribbean.

It's amazing to think that a single piece of amber with a single spider in it can open up window into what was going on 20 million years ago
Dr David Penney, University of Manchester
Dr Penney believes it was climbing up a tree 20 million years ago when it was hit on the head by fast flowing resin, became engulfed in the resin and died.

He claims the shape and position of the blood droplets revealed which direction the spider was travelling in and which of its legs broke first.

"It's amazing to think that a single piece of amber with a single spider in it can open up a window into what was going on 20 million years ago," he said.

"By analysing the position of the spider's body in relation to the droplets of blood in the amber we are able to determine how it died, which direction it was travelling in and even how fast it was moving."

He first saw the fossil during a visit to the Museo del Ambar Dominicano, in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.

Dr Penney reports his findings in the latest issue of the journal Palaeontology.


SEE ALSO:
Arachnid's clue to dino wipeout
18 May 05 |  Science/Nature
Oldest spider silk found
07 Aug 03 |  Science/Nature
New insect order discovered
18 Apr 02 |  Science/Nature


RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific