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Scientists stumble upon 'Jurassic Park' moment captured in amber

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 10th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Scientists have discovered a "Jurassic park" moment trapped in amber, coming over the centuries to spin its own prehistoric tale. A rare dinosaur-age scene of a spider attacking a wasp caught in its web has been preserved for modern man to study and enjoy.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The particle of amber contains 15 intact strands of spider silk. The find is providing the first fossil evidence of such an attack, researchers said. Excavated in a Burmese mine, the relic is said to date back to the Early Cretaceous era, between 97 million and 110 million years ago.

"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 says.

"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, along with Kentucky amber collector Ron Buckley described the find in a paper published in the October issue of the journal Historical Biology. They wrote that while there are examples of amber-trapped insects caught in webs, "there is no previous fossil record of a spider attacking its ensnared prey."

The chunk also contains the body of another male spider in the same web. According to the authors, this may make the fossil the oldest known evidence of social behavior in spiders.

Both the spider and wasp species are extinct. The type of wasp (Cascoscelio incassus) belongs to a group that today is known to parasitize spider eggs, Poinor said. The attack on the wasp by the bristly orb-weaver spider, Geratonephila burmanica, might then be considered - "revenge."

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