New fossil arachnids of the order Araneae from Inner Mongolia, China have been described in the journal, Naturwissenschaften.
Eoplectreurys gertschi fossils. The body length of these tiny spiders is only about 3 mm, excluding the chelicerae.
These fossils are remarkable for a variety of reasons:
- First, they are very well preserved, allowing researchers to examine minute details of this extinct species (See image below).
- Secondly, the fossils are extremely old, from the Middle Jurassic (165 million years ago). They extend the fossil record of the family Plectreuridae back 120 million years beyond previous specimens. The morphological conservation between these fossil Plectreuroids and their modern counterparts displays strong evolutionary conservatism (the creationists are gonna’ love that detail).
- Finally, the discovery of the fossils in China supports the hypothesis that this spider family once had a much larger range. Today they are only found in the US, Mexico, and the Carribean.
Via, The Great Beyond.
- Selden, P. & Huang, D., The oldest haplogyne spider (Araneae: Plectreuridae), from the Middle Jurassic of China. Naturwissenschaften. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00114-010-0649-z [Accessed February 10, 2010].