Phonetic: neh-fil-a ju-rass-ic-ah.
Named By: Paul A. Selden, ChungKun Shih & Dong Ren. - 2011
Classification: Arthropoda, Arachnida, Araneae, Nephilidae, Nephila.
Species: Nephila jurassica.
Size: Body length of 2.5cm. leg span of 8.3cm.
Known locations: Mongolia, Daohugou Beds.
Time period: Middle Jurassic.
Fossil representation: Type specimen showing an almost complete impression, even revealing hair details.
of Nephila jurassica recovered from the Daohugou
Beds is the largest
fossilised spider known to date. It has also pushed back the earliest
known example of the Nephila genus way back 165
million years ago
into the Jurassic. The remains were discovered in a sediment of
volcanic ash which suggests that it was caught up and buried during an
eruption, which would explain why the details were so well preserved.
Spiders that belong to the Nephila group still exist today, although they are more commonly known as golden orb weavers. These spiders are known to catch anything from insects to small birds and bats in their webs. It is still unclear if the extreme sexual dimorphism seen in today’s Nephila (males being much smaller than females) was also present this far back. Given the broad geological spread of today’s spiders, it seems plausible that the spiders of this group evolved and spread across the supercontinent of Pangaea before it broke up into the landmasses we know today.