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20 Million Year Old Spider Found 413

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the complete-with-drivers-license-and-birth-certificate dept.
evil agent writes "BBC News is reporting that Paleontologist Dr. David Penny has found a spider, and two droplets of blood, perfectly perserved in amber. He was able to extract the blood and determine its age: 20 million years old. Since it is thought to be the first time that spider blood has been found perserved in amber, it is hoped that DNA could be extracted."
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20 Million Year Old Spider Found

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01, 2005 @09:58PM (#13695922)
    Or does this sound like the intro narrative to a horror sci-fi flick...
    • Or does this sound like the intro narrative to a horror sci-fi flick...

      A really cheesy Sci-Fi Channel Original sci-fi/horror flick at that. Give 'em about six months and I'm sure they'll already be a week into filming Frankenspider III - After the Armageddon. Has anyone seen the crap they've been funding these last few years? Absolutely atrocious -- riddled with poor acting, casting, writing, and CGI just for the sake of having it in there (it sometimes seems).

      • Re:is it just me (Score:2, Informative)

        by chigun (770799)
        I just read an article about these new "B" movies on Sci-Fi network. Aparrently they have around 30 in the can for the year and they do very well (relatively). Each one has a very low budget (I think I read 1 million), and given that SciFi is one of the more popular networks on cable right now, I'm sure they make that money back quite handily and then some.

        Personally, I think it's great that they're bringing back the cheesy sci-fi movies. That means we might have a MST4K one day.
        • Re:is it just me (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Doc Ruby (173196)
          The cheesy SF B-movies I like are the ones which are cheap because they skimp on the special effects, but get a good story, and/or good acting/directing. These SciFi Channel movies spend most of their $1M budget on CGI, and nothing on the "drama". It's all eyecandy, empty calories. C-movies.
      • As 'bad' as those cheap movies are, they're being made, giving people jobs, and will make an impression on some people.
        Think Roger Corman and we have Jack Nicholson, James Cameron, Joe Dante, Rob Bottin just to name a few from his school of low budget production.

        Although these weren't the best, my memorable list of films from him are:
        Rock and Roll High School
        Pirahna
        Humaniods from the Deep

        Who cares if the acting is bad, the special effects are bad, the lighting is bad, and the camera blocking is a 1-take sho
    • by cmacb (547347) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:37PM (#13696143) Homepage Journal
      Or does this sound like the intro narrative to a horror sci-fi flick...

      Yes but, fortunately for most of us, these things always go after Tokyo first. Fortunately they are always able to take care of the situation over there, although we may have to send some B52s to get swatted down while they work on that new ray-gun thing.
    • Oooh .. Ahhh .. That's how it always starts. Then later there's running ... and screaming ... and bug spray ...
    • by Walt Dismal (534799) on Sunday October 02, 2005 @12:41AM (#13696600)
      Do you realize that if that 20 million year old spider had deposited even ONE PENNY in a savings account long ago, he'd be richer than Bill Gates by now.
  • blah! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01, 2005 @09:58PM (#13695924)
    God continues to fuck with us! First all those dinosaur bones and now this! Everyone knows the earth is only 3,000 years old, they added up all the people's ages in the bible and proved it!

    Looks like /. has been tricked by the atheist science lobby, again :)
    • Re:blah! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mfh (56) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:16PM (#13696042) Homepage Journal
      First all those dinosaur bones and now this!

      While we both know you're kidding, I have to wonder about the authenticity of carbon dating proceedures in general. I'm sure lots of scientists believe in them wholeheartedly, but I'm of a more humble seed. If they say this is a 20mil yr old spider, then I would agree under the stipulation that it's 20mil yrs in relation to everything else we've carbon dated. ;-)
      • Re:blah! (Score:2, Informative)

        Well in that case, its definately 20 million years old. Because... uhm... we can carbon date stuff thats not dead yet. Thats how they figured out what the 'normal' amount of C-14 was.
        • Re:blah! (Score:5, Informative)

          by ultranova (717540) on Sunday October 02, 2005 @03:53AM (#13697246)

          Well in that case, its definately 20 million years old. Because... uhm... we can carbon date stuff thats not dead yet.

          No we can't. Carbon dating tries to determine how long something has been dead from the ratio of radioactive versus stable carbon in its tissues; it is assumed that as long as the thing lived, it exchanged carbon freely with the surroundings (getting into its tissues tiny amounts of radioactive carbon produced in the upper atmosphere among the stable isotope), and when it died, this exchange stopped, leading to the radioactive isotope being depleted from those its tissues through radioactive decay.

          In any case, Wikipedia claims that carbon dating can only be used to measure times some 60 000 years back, so this seems rather irrelevant for the discussion at hand.

      • Re:blah! (Score:2, Funny)

        by ZakuSage (874456)
        Carbon dating just checks how much of a sample of Carbon-14 has decayed. It's not as if they take some carbon from the organism and do some weird shit to it, like putting it next to a TV and then throwing it in boiling water to see what happens.
        • "It's not as if they take some carbon from the organism and do some weird shit to it, like putting it next to a TV and then throwing it in boiling water to see what happens."

          Hey, don't disparage the proven techniques of Intelligent Design like that!
      • I have to wonder about the authenticity of carbon dating proceedures in general.

        Why? Something that you know about nuclear physics that I don't? Share.
      • Re:blah! (Score:5, Informative)

        by LionKimbro (200000) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:45PM (#13696173) Homepage
        Dr David Penney didn't use carbon dating. Carbon dating [wikipedia.org] only works to roughly 60,000 years ago. Beyond that, the radioactivity of the little C-14 that remains falls can't be told from background radiation.

        I don't know what technique was used to date the spider; The article only says they used the blood in the spider to do it.
        • Re:blah! (Score:3, Funny)

          "I don't know what technique was used to date the spider"

          Well, my guess is that he got to know the spider a bit before he finally asked it out. Then it could be a nice dinner, some wine, and a walk on the beach. If it was a more "casual" date, it might have involved a movie or Putt-Putt.

          We may never know.
      • > I have to wonder about the authenticity of carbon dating proceedures in general. I'm sure lots of scientists believe in them wholeheartedly, but I'm of a more humble seed. If they say this is a 20mil yr old spider, then I would agree under the stipulation that it's 20mil yrs in relation to everything else we've carbon dated. ;-)

        FYI, carbon dating is only good for the past 50,000 years.

        Also, notice that TFA doesn't mention carbon dating.
      • Re:blah! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by LnxAddct (679316) <sgk25@drexel.edu> on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:57PM (#13696231)
        Well please let me know what science you've discovered that conflicts with all known, tested, and proven nuclear theory. Regardless, carbon dating is only good for up until about 60,000 years old. After that many other methods can be used, most of those methods are proven and extremely accurate. Please also keep in mind that scientists rarely, if ever, only use one method of dating something. By using two or more completely unrelated methods to date a specimen you can get its age to within extremely small margins of error.

        Carbon dating, and similar methods, tend to often be most useful for mummies and humans or recent dead animals. Methods like those can't be used on dinosaur bones because most of the time the bone has been replaced with a different material (one example would be in southern south america, some major finds have been found but the bones were hard to move because they were nearly pure iron and bigger than a man.) You should read up on the science, its a very mature and well understood thing. The media does shitty research and doesn't check any facts that various religious groups tell them. Learn for yourself, you can probably take a class in it at your local college.

        The intelligent design folk tend to be ignorant and ignoring facts. They can't accept the truth because they want more to their life, they want to believe that God designed people after himself (which in my eyes is a pretty conceited view, and also an insult to God considering how crappy and fragile we are designed, not to mention the numerous unused organs... I guess God just wanted to weigh us down.) I am a religious man, but some people associate evolution with meaning there is no heaven (not necessarily a true relation) and can't go through life not thinking that there is some higher meaning for them living. Its really all a case about people not being as important as they want to be. Its always been that way (hell, for centuries we claimed we were the center of the friggin Universe) and some people just need to wake up and accept the truth.
        Regards,
        Steve
      • by jpellino (202698) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @11:21PM (#13696320)
        The baseline concentration of carbon 14 is from a 1950 measurement - C14 is atmospheric nitrogen bombarded by naturally occurring radiation, the C14 is incorporated metabolically into living organisms - but only as long as you're alive and respiring.

        As to accuracy, there are calibration curves for it against other known counters - tree rings etc.

        As to precision, there was also a recalculation of the half-life - but they were only off by a few percent.

        They're not off by an integral factor, they're not off by an order of magnitude. But after ten or so half-lifes, the differences become too small to be practically useful.
    • Re:blah! (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah, must be only the pre-beta version of that intelligent design... You know how release dates tend to slip. A few years here and there to improve and stabilize. In the end, you end up missing the target by a few billion years.

      Or maybe it's just the demo that God presents at fairs to attract VC. I wonder if he sells licenses or subscriptions...

      • Re:blah! (Score:5, Funny)

        by Pharmboy (216950) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:56PM (#13696226) Journal
        Or maybe it's just the demo that God presents at fairs to attract VC. I wonder if he sells licenses or subscriptions...

        I think subscriptions. 20+ years ago when I actually went to church, I would always see them pass around a metal plate, and everyone was expected to put money in it.
    • Re:blah! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by operagost (62405) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:32PM (#13696115) Homepage Journal
      Funny how this 20 million year old spider species exists in identical form today. It must be a perfectly adapted design; why else would it not have changed in all that time?
      • Re:blah! (Score:3, Informative)

        by LnxAddct (679316)
        A) 20 millions years isn't that old, its 100 times older than humans, big deal. Thats why the form hasn't changed that much, but it may also be because the design really is that well. Most spiders have few predators but quite a selection of prey.

        B) Some animals did evolve to what is considered pretty optimal, some examples being sharks, crocidiles and squid. If you follow the genetic chains of living things you'll see that some tend to have fewer changes. Often times the case is that the animal has few or
        • Re:blah! (Score:4, Informative)

          by jafiwam (310805) on Sunday October 02, 2005 @09:46AM (#13698079) Homepage Journal
          Also note;

          Even sub-optimal biological systems can not-change for a long time under these and other conditions;

          - adaptions prevent or correct mutations
          - long lifespan
          - many breeding partners over a wide area
          - no predators (like sharks)
          - stable environment in the relevant parts (sharks that I know of do not specialize in foods for example)
          - large population

          So it isn't suprising that some animals don't change much over time.

          ps. WTF is it with the ID people spreading from Fark to here... I figured that Slashdot had somewhat of a higher standard.
      • Re: blah! (Score:5, Informative)

        by Black Parrot (19622) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:53PM (#13696206)
        > Funny how this 20 million year old spider species exists in identical form today. It must be a perfectly adapted design; why else would it not have changed in all that time?

        TFA mentions that it's a new species. I.e., not identical to any known spider.

        (Presumably "new species" means "newly discovered", since the specimen is rather old.)
      • They don't know that yet, do they? RTFA, they are HOPING to be able to extract DNA from this spider.
    • Re:blah! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Gulthek (12570) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:34PM (#13696121) Homepage Journal
      The Earth is actually 5,000 years old and was created by the great Flying Spaghetti Monster. But in His infinite wisdom, he created it old.

      I.E. He created a world that was millions of years old 5,000 years ago.
    • Re:blah! (Score:2, Funny)

      by Stiletto (12066)
      Ahh, but you were fooled again!! The DAY-VIL encased that spider in amber just to TEST YOUR FAITH! Just like all the dinosaur bones and all those gamma rays that supposedly come from that fictonal outer space! Yup all the DAY-VIL'S work!!! PRAAAYZZZ JEEEEBUS!!! PRAAAYZZZ JEEEEBUS!!! [gurrgle] Blaaarrrgghhhannnnn! [froth] [epileptic fit]
    • So if all the ages in the Bible add up to X years ago, all that would imply is that people were made then. Last time I checked in Genesis God waited to make people last and the common belief by most Christians is that "7 Days" could refer to millions of years (evolution for ya), because a biblical day has often meant more than what we now consider to be a 24-hour time period. So basically the spider could have been made on day "3" which is 20 million years ago, and day 4 may have been 10 million years ago
  • Clone it? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01, 2005 @09:59PM (#13695927)
    Oh boy I hope they clone it. 'Cause that's all we need is more spiders... :/
  • Welcome... (Score:5, Funny)

    by jacen_sunstrider (797955) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @09:59PM (#13695928) Homepage Journal
    to Arachnid Park!
    • ...To recycled Fark!
    • Welcome... to Arachnid Park!

      Are you sure you got that right? Our new arachnoid overlords thought they were welcomed to Human Park.
    • If you say that out loud it sounds like Iraqi Park - Where WMD's roam freely.

      But then I'm from sweden AND i'm drunk, so my pronounciation is probably screwed up.
    • by JudgeFurious (455868) on Sunday October 02, 2005 @12:43AM (#13696604)
      A whole hearted "Fuck That Noise!" to your insightful post.

        I can't be the only person getting bad vibes from the idea of scientists recovering some 20 million year old spider DNA from this thing. We all know that once scientists get hold of 20 million year old spider DNA they can't just study it and compare it to modern spider DNA. Oh hell no, they're going to have to make some brand new "vintage" 20 million year old spiders out of it. Then those spiders will escape and breed with our spiders and shortly after that we're going to learn about the little tiny kind of spider who was really responsible for the Dinosaurs going away.

        I'm going to be so pissed off when I'm proven right on this.
  • We all know what this will lead to...

    Jurassic Marvel Superheroes!

  • by rhetoric (735114) <rhetoric@nospam.columbus.rr.com> on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:00PM (#13695938)
    Michael Crichton creams his pants in cybercafe after reading this report.
  • by Brandon K (888791) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:07PM (#13695979)
    So one day, thousands (millions?) of years from now some scientists will be looking at my pale, naked body inside a shell of delicious hardened maple syrup, in which I died doing what I loved.

    Then they'd bring me to some scientific symposium, and present me up on stage.

    "Here you can see an ancient human, most likely in the 'geek' class. You can tell by his white skin, lack of muscles, and raw skin on his penis from over-masturbation"

    *Audience oooh's and aaah's*
  • by jav1231 (539129) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:14PM (#13696021)
    Since science articles are only 50% correct, it's 10 million years old.
    BTW,it looks remarkably like spiders that are merely 20 days old.
    Queue NOVA voice over: "20 million years ago, the Earth was a much different place...with much difference life forms!"
    Kid: "Sir! What about this spider!?"
    NOVA voice: "Okay! Okay! The spiders were all the same! But there were no humans to screw things up! GOT IT!"
    Kid: "Sorry...."
  • by pmike_bauer (763028) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:16PM (#13696040)
    If we bring back these creatures (a la Spielberg) and they get out of hand, we can just step on 'em.
  • That this story isn't already on this site
    http://www.world-science.net/ [world-science.net]

    All the wild science you ever needed....
  • by thre5her (223254) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:19PM (#13696050) Homepage
    edit your robots.txt
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:24PM (#13696071)
    Palaeontologist Dr David Penney, of the University of Manchester, found the 4cm long by 2cm wide fossil during a visit to a museum in the Dominican Republic.

    "Oh, look! It's an amazing discovery! I found these T. Rex bones! And look, it's an ancient spider preserved in amber! Wow - there's a wooly mammoth entrapped in tar! This is the richest archeological find ever! Oh, wait... I'm in a museum."
  • Jurrassic Terrarium?

    I'm curious as to what oh-so-reliable dating method they used.
  • Two questions... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Maxim Kovalenko (764126) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:38PM (#13696149) Homepage
    1. Why is there no reference to how they know that the spider is that old?... and 2. Does the writer actually know that spiders have hemolymph instead of blood as us humans would look at it? Sigh...lazy science reporting strikes again.
    • by bigmanjq (824222)
      You are correct, especially about your second point. As a Biology teacher, I emphasize the point to my students that spiders (and all arthropods) do NOT have blood (that term is reserved for animals with a closed circulatory system). Spiders and other arthropods have a fluid called "hemolymph" (as you mentioned) which contains the equivalent of our blood plus lymphatic fluids (hense the name "hemo"=blood + "lymph").

      Do you actually expect any more from BBC News, though?
  • by saskboy (600063) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @10:46PM (#13696179) Homepage Journal
    Maybe that old Slashdot troll was on to something when he started putting hot grits down his pants. Maybe he just wasn't advanced enough to realize that if he'd done it with tree sap, then he'd be naked and petrified with blood and DNA intact for at least 20 Million years, just like this spider!

    I've been considering different ways I could preserve my body, and I think encasing myself in amber has shot to the top of the list, past deep freezing, and freeze drying.
  • by QueenNina (544235) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @11:12PM (#13696285) Homepage
    From the article:
    Palaeontologist Dr David Penney, of the University of Manchester, found the 4cm long by 2cm wide fossil during a visit to a museum in the Dominican Republic.

    Since the discovery two years ago, he has used droplets of blood in the amber to reveal the age of the specimen.

    Um, if he "found" it in a museum, doesn't that mean someone ELSE discovered it?

    Just curious.

  • $5 says... (Score:2, Funny)

    by ChePibe (882378)
    It was discovered by a scientist's wife, who demanded he come from the other side of the forest to squish it with his shoe...

    (No, I'm not a sexit pig... just a married man with an aracnophobic wife...)
  • Journal Article (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Abstract from the paper

    Note that this was submitted and accepted more than a year ago. If you have a subsciption (most universities), you can get it at this url [blackwell-synergy.com]

    Abstract: Two spiders (Filistatidae) in Miocene Dominican
    Republic amber, one newly identified and only the second
    known fossil of this family, have autospasized legs (detached
    at a predetermined locus of weakness when restrained by a
    non-self-induced source) at the patella-tibia joint. In both
    specimens, droplets of haemolymph (blood) are preserved
    exitin
  • by Dachannien (617929) on Saturday October 01, 2005 @11:40PM (#13696372)
    Ignignokt: Did anyone see an eight-foot spider wearing a diaper in the parking lot anywhere?
    Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future: I did see that spider, but when I was in that parking lot, it was about 375 thousand years ago....
  • by nastro (32421) on Sunday October 02, 2005 @12:04AM (#13696455)
    The spider commented that it was cold, and that no one turns up the goddamned heat anymore. It went on to note that younger spiders ran all over his web yesterday, and left things quite untidy. "No sir, things ain't what they used to be 'tall."

  • by ReadParse (38517) <.john. .at. .funnycow.com.> on Sunday October 02, 2005 @01:13AM (#13696712) Homepage
    Dr Penney, of the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, said he had used the blood droplets to trace how, when and where the spider died.

    Was there a question about how the spider died? I could have saved you some time and money. I could have made a good guess on the "where" also if you told me where you found him.

    RP

  • by PhotoGuy (189467) on Sunday October 02, 2005 @09:33AM (#13698029) Homepage
    Does it strike anyone else as odd, that the scientist quoted in article mentions the DNA possibility almost in passing, but rambles on proudly, at length, about how he figure out how it died from being hit with "fast moving resin"? (wtf?) Nothing like breaking your leg from being hit by maple syrup.

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