Spider trapped in amber as it makes a meal of wasp

Posted by Kate Taylor

Researchers have discovered a well-preserved spider attacking a wasp in a 100 million-year-old piece of amber - the first of its kind ever found.

It's a snapshot in time of an event that took place in Myanmar's Hukawng Valley in the Early Cretaceous, and is the first and only fossil evidence of a spider attacking prey in its web.

At least 15 unbroken strands of spider silk, on which the wasp was ensnared, run through the amber piece.

The piece of amber also contains the body of a male spider in the same web, representing the oldest evidence of social behavior in spiders, which still exists in some species but is fairly rare.

"This was a male wasp that suddenly found itself trapped in a spider web," says George Poinar, a professor emeritus of zoology at Oregon State University.

"This was the wasp's worst nightmare, and it never ended. The wasp was watching the spider just as it was about to be attacked, when tree resin flowed over and captured both of them."

While researchers believe that spiders date back some 200 million years, the oldest fossil evidence ever found of a spider web is only about 130 million years old.

The unlucky wasp belongs to a group that is known today to parasitize spider and insect eggs. Both the spider - a type of orb-weaver - and the wasp belong to extinct genera.