The 100-Million-Year-Old Spider Attack Frozen in Time


Researchers have found an ancient piece of amber that shows a spider preying on a wasp caught in its web.

Researchers at Oregon State University have found a rare scene that dates back nearly 100 million years — and it's all fossilized in amber.

Excavated in a Burmese mine, the ancient object shows a spider attacking a wasp that had gotten caught in its web. "This juvenile spider was going to make a meal out of a tiny parasitic wasp, but never quite got to it," said George Poinar, Jr., a zoology professor at Oregon State University, as falling tree sap killed them both and preserved the dinosaur-era attack. "This was the wasp's worst nightmare, and it never ended." The amber also preserved 15 strands of spider silk.

The reaction: According to researchers, this is the first fossilized evidence of a spider attacking its prey. While this behavior exists today, says April Flowers at redOrbit, it's rare, meaning that this fossil is evidence of "some of the oldest examples of spider social behavior." But what's "hilariously poetic" about this discovery is that this species of wasp was known to parasitize spider eggs, says Casey Chan at Gizmodo. So it's possible that the spider was attempting to seek some "sweet revenge" on the wasp for preying on its eggs. Too bad both of them met their untimely end mid-action.

Every so often, we'll reprint something from our sister publication, The Week. This is one of those times.