Biggest spider fossil ever found

Scientists have unearthed the largest spider fossil ever found.

The spider, a new species called Nephila jurassica, stretches about five centimetres (two inches) from end to end. It was found in a fossil-rich rock formation near Daohugou village in northeastern China. The fossil dates back to the Middle Jurassic, about 165 million years ago.

By comparison today’s biggest living spiders are the Goliath bird-eater (Theraphosa blondi) and the giant huntsman (Heteropoda maxima), both of which have leg spans of 30 cm.

So this small fossil find is a bit surprising, because spiders and other creepy-crawlies were much larger in the past. Around 300 million years ago, oxygen levels were much higher than today. Invertebrates – many of which rely on simple diffusion rather than a circulatory system to delivery oxygen to their tissues – grew to monstrous sizes. Some dragonflies had wingspans of up to a metre, while some millipedes were 2.5 metres long. Read more here, here, here or here.

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