Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Imaging technology reveals intricate details of 49-million-year-old spider

Date:
May 18, 2011
Source:
University of Manchester
Summary:
Scientists have used the latest computer-imaging technology to produce stunning three-dimensional pictures of a 49-million-year-old spider trapped inside an opaque piece of fossilized amber resin.

The 49 million-year-old Huntsman spider seen using X-ray computed tomography.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Manchester

Scientists have used the latest computer-imaging technology to produce stunning three-dimensional pictures of a 49 million-year-old spider trapped inside an opaque piece of fossilized amber resin.

University of Manchester researchers, working with colleagues in Germany, created the intricate images using X-ray computed tomography to study the remarkable spider, which can barely be seen under the microscope in the old and darkened amber.

Writing in the international journal Naturwissenschaften, the scientists showed that the amber fossil -- housed in the Berlin Natural History Museum -- is a member of a living genus of the Huntsman spiders (Sparassidae), a group of often large, active, free-living spiders that are hardly ever trapped in amber.

As well as documenting the oldest ever huntsman spider, especially through a short film revealing astounding details, the scientists showed that even specimens in historical pieces of amber, which at first look very bad, can yield vital data when studied by computed tomography.

"More than 1,000 species of fossil spider have been described, many of them from amber," said Dr David Penney, from Manchester's Faculty of Life Sciences. "The best-known source is Baltic amber which is about 49 million years old, and which has been actively studied for over 150 years.

"Indeed, some of the first fossil spiders to be described back in 1854 were from the historically significant collection of Georg Karl Berendt, which is held in the Berlin Natural History museum. A problem here is that these old, historical amber pieces have reacted with oxygen over time and are now often dark or cracked, making it hard to see the animal specimens inside."

Berendt's amber specimens were supposed to include the oldest example of a so-called Huntsman spider but this seemed strange as huntsman spiders are strong, quick animals that would be unlikely to be trapped in tree resin. To test this, an international team of experts in the fields of fossils and living spiders, and in modern techniques of computer analysis decided to re-study Georg Berendt's original specimen and determine once and for all what it really was.

"The results were surprising," said Dr Penney. "Computed tomography produced 3D images and movies of astounding quality, which allowed us to compare the finest details of the amber fossil with similar-looking living spiders.

"We were able to show that the fossil is unquestionably a Huntsman spider and belongs to a genus called Eusparassus, which lives in the tropics and also arid regions of southern Europe today, but evidently lived in central Europe 50 million years ago.

"The research is particularly exciting because our results show that this method works and that other scientifically important specimens in historical pieces of darkened amber can be investigated and compared to their living relatives in the same way."

Professor Philip Withers, who established the Henry Moseley X-ray Imaging Facility -- a unique suite of 3D X-ray imagers covering scales from a metre to 50nm -- within Manchester's School of Materials, added: "Normally such fossils are really hard to detect because the contrast against the amber is low but with phase contrast imaging the spiders really jump out at you in 3D. Usually you have to go to a synchrotron X-ray facility to get good phase contrast, but we can get excellent phase contrast in the lab. This is really exciting because it opens up the embedded fossil archive not just in ambers."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Manchester. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jason A. Dunlop, David Penney, Natalie Dalόge, Peter Jδger, Andrew McNeil, Robert S. Bradley, Philip J. Withers, Richard F. Preziosi. Computed tomography recovers data from historical amber: an example from huntsman spiders. Naturwissenschaften, 2011; DOI: 10.1007/s00114-011-0796-x

Cite This Page:

University of Manchester. "Imaging technology reveals intricate details of 49-million-year-old spider." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110518080106.htm>.
University of Manchester. (2011, May 18). Imaging technology reveals intricate details of 49-million-year-old spider. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110518080106.htm
University of Manchester. "Imaging technology reveals intricate details of 49-million-year-old spider." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110518080106.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Iconic 'Easy Rider' Chopper Bike to Go on Auction Block

Iconic 'Easy Rider' Chopper Bike to Go on Auction Block

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) — The iconic Harley-Davidson motorbike ridden by Peter Fonda in the 1969 classic "Easy Rider" is to go under the hammer in California, and auctioneers predict it will make at least $1 million. Duration: 01:09 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) — Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Egypt Denies Claims Oldest Pyramid Damaged in Restoration

Egypt Denies Claims Oldest Pyramid Damaged in Restoration

AFP (Sep. 17, 2014) — Egypt's antiquities minister denied Tuesday claims that the Djoser pyramid, the country's first, had been damaged during restoration work by a company accused of being unqualified to do such work. Duration: 00:56 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
King Richard III's Painful Cause Of Death Revealed

King Richard III's Painful Cause Of Death Revealed

Newsy (Sep. 17, 2014) — King Richard III died in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, and now researchers examining his skull think they know how. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins