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DOMINICA - Spider's Blood Found In Amber May Hold Prehistoic Secrets

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Author Topic: DOMINICA - Spider's Blood Found In Amber May Hold Prehistoic Secrets  (Read 87 times)
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« on: October 18, 2008, 12:39:10 pm »

South American Connection

Some speculate that the Antilles were once attached to Central America. More recently scientists have proposed that the chain was briefly connected to South America some 35 million years ago.

"The fact that this specimen has its closest relatives in Brazil and Argentina lends weight to this argument," Penney said.

Dominican amber fossils suggest there has been relatively little change in climate and habitat in the Caribbean for tens of millions of years, he said.

"The Dominican Republic is the only place on Earth where the amber fauna [fossilized animals in amber] are almost identical to the recent fauna," he explained. "That tells us that [Hispaniola] was tropical at the time it was formed."

The island's amber fossil record may also help turn up previously unknown species still living today, Penney said.

"The fauna on the island is quite poorly known. Not all the species are described," he said. Descendants of the newly discovered fossil spider may well have survived on Hispaniola, he added.

The paleontologist used blood droplets visible in the amber fossil, which is 4 centimeters long and 2 centimeters wide (1.6 inches long and 0.8 inch wide), to determine how the spider met its end.

From the flow of the blood droplets, Penney says, the spider must have been struck head-on by tree resin as it flowed down a tree trunk.

When the resin engulfed the spider, blood oozed from the arachnid's legs, which broke at predetermined weak spots. Leg loss is a predator-escape mechanism that is not unique to spiders.

"[It's] a bit like when you catch a lizard's tail and it breaks off," Penney said. "The same happens with spider legs in some families."
« Last Edit: October 18, 2008, 12:41:21 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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