KOMPAS.com – Millions of years ago, large spiders lived in the jungles of Australia. A team of scientists reports finding a large spider fossil.
This largest spider fossil was discovered by a team of scientists led by paleontologists from the Australian Museum (AM) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Dr Matthew McCurry.
Reporting from Phys, Saturday (23/9/2023), this spider fossil was officially named Megamonodontium mccluskyi, which is 11-16 million years old.
The fossil of the new spider genus was discovered at a fossil site known for its iron-rich rock called goethite, namely at McGraths Flat, New South Wales.
According to researchers, the first spider fossil discovered came from the Barychelidae family. Additionally, this spider species is similar to the living genus, Monodontium.
However, the size of Megamonodontium mccluskyi is five times larger than Monodontium. The name of the spider fossil is taken from the name of Dr. Simon McClusky who discovered the specimen.
A geospatial scientist based in Canberra, McClusky gives up his time to help with palaeontological excavations.
This discovery is very important, because according to McCurry, very few spider fossils can be found in Australia.
McCurry said only four spider fossils had ever been found on the entire continent, making it difficult for scientists to understand the evolutionary history of spiders.
“The closest relatives of this fossil now live in wet forests from Singapore to Papua New Guinea. This shows that this group once occupied the same environment on mainland Australia, but then became extinct when Australia became more arid,” said the researcher.
Australian Museum via PHYS
Australia’s largest fossil spider specimen. This fossil is well preserved, so researchers can see details of the body of a spider that was 11-16 million years old.
Spider fossils are well preserved
The author and supervisor of this study, Robert Raven, said this was the largest spider fossil ever found in Australia.
“Not only is it the largest spider fossil found in Australia, but it is also the first fossil from the Barychelidae family found anywhere in the world,” said Raven.
“There are around 300 species of brush-legged trapdoor spiders alive today, but they don’t seem to turn into fossils very often. This is probably because they spend so much time in burrows that they are not in the right environment to become fossils.” ” he added.
Using array microphotography to scan the fossils, University of Canberra Associate Professor Michael Frese said the fossils from McGraths Flat showed an extraordinary level of preservation.
Through a scanning electron microscope, Frese explained that this technique allowed them to study the tiny details of the claws and setae on the spider’s legs and body.
Setae are hair-like structures that have various functions, namely they can sense chemicals and vibrations, and can even make sounds.
Currently, Australia’s largest spider fossil is kept in an important collection at the Australian Museum and is available online for study.
The study of the discovery of the largest spider fossil found in Australia has been published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.
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