Researchers have found the only fossil ever discovered of a spider attacking prey caught in its web.
The amber-encased spider is set to eat a tiny parasitic wasp, reported the Huffington Post. Researchers from Oregon State University said both the spider and the wasp belong to extinct genera. They added that the "extraordinarily rare" discovery could give invaluable insight into the behavior of ancient spiders.
According to The Christian Science Monitor, the piece of amber contains 15 intact strands of spider silk. The fossil was excavated from a mine in Myanmar and dates back to the Early Cretaceous, between 97 million and 110 million years ago.
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"This juvenile spider was going to make a meal out of a tiny parasitic wasp, but never quite got to it," George Poinar, Jr., a zoology professor at Oregon State University, said in a statement. "This was a male wasp that suddenly found itself trapped in a spider web. This was the wasp's worst nightmare, and it never ended. The wasp was watching the spider just as it was about to be attacked, when tree resin flowed over and captured both of them."
Poinar and Ron Buckley, an amber collector from Kentucky, have published a paper describing their find in the most recent issue of the journal Historical Biology. They wrote that while there have been other insects trapped in amber while caught in spider webs, "this is the first fossil evidence of spider sociality and a fossil spider attacking prey trapped in its web."