KU News Release

Feb. 12, 2010
Contact: Jen Humphrey, Natural History Museum, (785) 864-2344

KU researcher finds detailed fossil spider specimens from Jurassic period

LAWRENCE — Scientists have discovered new, detailed fossil spider specimens that date to the Jurassic period 165 million years ago and reveal a connection to modern spiders.

The remarkably well-preserved specimens are about 120 million years older than known spiders in the same family.

The research findings by Paul Selden, the Gulf-Hedberg Distinguished Professor of Invertebrate Paleontology in the Department of Geology at the University of Kansas, and his colleague Diying Huang at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology were published in the Feb. 6 edition of the journal Naturwissenschaften.

The specimens, which were discovered in Inner Mongolia, China, are exceptionally detailed. The males show all the features of the modern members of the family Plectreuridae.

“What is interesting about their identification in the family Plectreuridae is that the family is known today only from California, Arizona, Mexico and Cuba,” Selden said. “Yet these were on a small continent called the North China Block in the Jurassic.”

That means that much of the family’s distribution has contracted considerably, while the family has changed little over that time.

Selden is director of the Paleontological Institute at the Biodiversity Institute, a research center at KU.

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