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Earth Science

3D Images Reconstructed of 300M-Year-Old Spiders 88

Posted by Soulskill
from the things-that-i'm-glad-are-extinct dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Scientists at Imperial College London have created detailed 3D computer models of two fossilized specimens of ancient creatures called Cryptomartus hindi and Eophrynus prestvicii, closely related to modern-day spiders. The researchers created their images by using a CT scanning device, which enabled them to take 3,000 X-rays of each fossil then compile them into precise 3D models, using custom-designed software. Both spiders roamed the Earth during the Carboniferous period, 359-299 million years ago, when life was emerging from the oceans to live on land. C. hindi's front pair of legs were angled toward the front, suggesting they were used to grapple with prey, an 'ambush predator' like the modern-day crab spider, lying in wait for prey to come close. 'Our models almost bring these ancient creatures back to life and it's really exciting to be able to look at them in such detail,' says researcher Russel Garwood, adding that the technique could be used to return to fossils that have previously been analyzed by conventional means. 'Our study helps build a picture of what was happening during this period early in the history of life on land.'"
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3D Images Reconstructed of 300M-Year-Old Spiders

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  • But... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Abreu (173023) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @11:03AM (#28957839)

    ...were they giant spiders?

    The article doesn't say!

    • Of COURSE they're GIANT spiders. If they weren't would it be News for Nerds? And would it matter? I think not.

      • by cold1s (892039)
        Spider Pig Spider Pig......
      • by Gunnsy (1612637)
        Dont think that that giant doctor who battled some much bigger in my youth if i recall
      • Yes, the headline of the article proved to me: "Scary ancient spiders revealed..." Very scientific.
        And is it just me, or do they look more like ticks than spiders?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Both Cryptomartus hindi and Eophrynus prestivicii were around the size of a 50 pence piece ... 27 mm

      • by dmomo (256005)

        Well... that's just your opinion. I bet these pre-historic spiders are HUGE! Maybe even close to the size of spiders from the future.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by LKM (227954)
          Yes. Clearly, GP wasn't there when the spiders were actually alive. For all we know, they were kilometers in length and just shrunk due to being really old. I think that is the most likely explanation.
      • Re:But... (Score:5, Funny)

        by CarpetShark (865376) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @11:45AM (#28958537)

        BUT! 3M years ago, 50 pence pieces were fucking huge!

        • Well, if you compensate for the inflation as you go back in time, you certainly end up with 50 pence pieces that are fucking huge boulders of gold.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Spacelem (189863)

            Due to the exponential nature of inflation, say a meagre 5% per year, for 3x10^8 years, that's 1.05^(3x10^8)... and GNU Octave overflows.

            Okay, let's try something a bit smaller, say 0.0001% per year inflation. That's an increase of 1.942x10^130. That's around 10^50 times as many atoms as there are in the known universe. So your golden boulders are about 10^50 times as big as the universe. Yep, that's pretty huge.

            Let's go really small, say 0.000001% per year inflation. That's better, they've only increased t

            • I salute you, Sir. I've no idea if you're right, but I wish I even had the confidence in my math skills to start running calculations from ancient imaginary scenarios, getting astronomical numbers for results, and then to post my workings out on slashdot.

              • by Spacelem (189863)

                As a maths graduate, I'm confident that the methodology is correct, and the major point was to show the ballpark that the golden boulder would be vastly bigger than the known universe. I could improve the accuracy though.

                Price of gold = £9.80/g, density of gold = 19.3g/cm^3, atomic weight of gold = 196.97g/mol. So 50p of gold has a mass of 0.5/9.8 = 0.051g, a size of 0.051/19.3 = 2.64x10^-3cm^3 or 2.64x10^-9m^3, this lump of gold has 0.051/196.96xL = 1.56x10^20 atoms (L is Avogadro's constant).

                We prev

        • by Meski (774546)

          I blame decimalisation

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by smallshot (1202439)
      From the article:

      "Both Cryptomartus hindi and Eophrynus prestivicii were around the size of a 50 pence piece and they roamed the Earth during the Carboniferous period, 359 - 299 million years ago. This was a time before the dinosaurs, when life was emerging from the oceans to live on land."

      At that age, I'm amazed they look so much like the spider I killed on my driveway the other day.

      • by Abreu (173023)

        "Both Cryptomartus hindi and Eophrynus prestivicii were around the size of a 50 pence piece

        So, if they were not Volkswagen-sized spiders, why is this news?

      • Why?
        How would you improve on a spider's general design?
        What would you point to as an obvious weakness?

        Shit like spiders and sharks have stayed relatively the same for hundreds of millions of years because what they have works.

    • I don't know, but I have another, more important question:

      So where were the spiders while the fly tried to break our balls?
    • Size of a 50 pence coin. I.e. about 2.5 cm.
    • by tocs (866673)
      "Both Cryptomartus hindi and Eophrynus prestivicii were around the size of a 50 pence piece" How big is a 50 pence piece?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by pluther (647209)

        It's about 1.36x10^-14 the size of Alaska.

    • What was the name of that documentory again? "Them", or some other such stupid name.

    • Re:But... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745) <dadinportlandNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @02:28PM (#28960977) Homepage Journal

      It does say. the size of a 50 pence piece. Now I have never seen a 50 pence piece, so I will assume they are the size of an SUV.

    • Yes, the article does say what size they were.
      FTFA:

      Both Cryptomartus hindi and Eophrynus prestivicii were around the size of a 50 pence piece and they roamed the Earth during the Carboniferous period, 359 - 299 million years ago.

      [my emphasis]

      50 pence piece== 27.3mm, or a 'hair bigger than an inch'[for those in the USA].
      A one inch spider hardly qualifies as being 'giant'.

  • I like articles that clearly tell me where to stop reading.
  • by oskard (715652) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @11:07AM (#28957903)
    That's a headcrab!
    • I think it's a giant tick. check the first link.

      • by Dyinobal (1427207)
        When I saw the image that's the first thing I thought as well. Glad to see I wasn't the only one who saw that.
      • It does look very tick-like! I wonder if they are more closely related to tickspiders [americanarachnology.org] than true spiders(of Araneae). Although a lot of Arachnida look very similar (includes ticks, spiders and ricinulei).

      • Ticks, Lice, Crabs, Spiders share a common ancestor. So it is not surprising at all that a 300Myo spider might look like a tick or a louse.

  • We've reduced 300m-year-old life to the graphics of an 80s video game.

    Thanks, science.
    • Human brains are really, really good at visual pattern recognition. Having this kind of model to play with is very useful in understanding the anatomy of the creature we're studying. Looking at individual images of the fossils, or even the fossils themselves, is just not the same thing; there are patterns in the totality of the reconstructed image that we might miss looking at things one at a time.

      Also, I don't remember playing any video games that looked that good in the 80s.

  • I don't know about these guys, but whenever I try and do a 3D image of a spider it just crawls away. By the time I get to actually rendering an image, the spider is flat.
    • Try spraying it with acrylic first.

      Or using any of the commercial products used to kill bugs without destroying their shape. Hell, a kid's amateur entymology set comes with one of those, when I was a kid it was a liquid in a dropper vial. The stuff worked well, assuming I had the critter in a net first. Then you wait for the liquid to dry, and presto! -- you've got a mountable (and imagable) specimen.
      • by RockDoctor (15477)

        Try spraying it with acrylic first.

        Or using any of the commercial products used to kill bugs without destroying their shape.

        They address this point somewhat in the paper which TFA abstracts :

        Traditional approaches rely on splitting concretions and studying the portion of the fossil thus revealed; morphological data recovery is typically incomplete. In arachnids, for example, the hydraulically extended legs (Parry & Brown 1959) curl underneath the body after death owing to the absence of haemolymph press

    • Try a small vesuvian eruption.

    • Do what these guys did. Squish it between two rocks for 300 million years. That should make it sit still long enough to take its picture.

  • by gerddie (173963) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @11:20AM (#28958145)
    The spiders have the size of a 50 pence piece, which means they are below 3cm large. I'd say they where using a standard micro CT scanner, depending on the protocol that gives you about these 3000 projections. The software to reconstruct 3D volume data from the projections usually comes with the scanner, and going from volume data to a real model has been done for ages. Of course you can write your own reconstruction software, but that's just one amongst many.
    Actually having a fossil that old to begin with, well that's another story.
  • How big is it? I could care less what it looks like without knowing if it's the size of a dime, a dinner plate or a small dog.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    At least to me.

  • Looks a lot like a Tick to me... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tick [wikipedia.org]
  • Blasphemy! (Score:4, Funny)

    by AP31R0N (723649) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @11:59AM (#28958717)

    The Earth is only 6000 years old. Clearly this "fossil" is the work of the Devil.

    Either that, to Adam had to squish these for Eve (and his other two rarely mentioned wives).

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by clone53421 (1310749)

      The Earth is only 6000 years old. Clearly this "fossil" is the work of the Devil.

      Right, because you know for a fact that the fossil is older.

      • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

        by AP31R0N (723649)

        Just like you know, for a fact, that the Earth isn't older than about 6000 years.

        How many regressions/reductions do we need to hit absurdity?

        Are you the best troll ever?

        • We could always go by the word of the guy who's been here all along.

          Oh wait, you don't believe God exists. Nevermind, this argument's going nowhere.

          • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

            by AP31R0N (723649)

            Yes, it is.

            I'm sorry time's up, if you want to go on arguing you'll have to pay for another 5 posts.

          • by geekoid (135745)

            Corr3ection:
            No one has ever shown any good evidence of God. It's not a matter of 'not believing' it's a matter of no evidence.

            Actually, I have done many tests for God, and the all failed.
            Really, there is no God.

            • Actually, I have done many tests for God, and the all failed.

              You can only test for something specific - your experiment can only be as good as your model. Therefore, your statement pre-supposes a definition. This is what the theological non-congnitivists are always on about.

              I used to think there was no god, now science points towards us living in a simulated universe, which portends a creator. He may be a dork in a computer lab, though, which ain't gonna make the holy rollers happy.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                now science points towards us living in a simulated universe

                Huh?

                AFAICT, the "simulated universe" is a fun idea to play with, but there's no evidence for it (if you have real citations to the contrary, as opposed to uninformed pop-sci speculation, I'll be glad to see it.) Now, it is true that we are increasingly able to simulate certain aspects of the universe with impressive accuracy ... which probably has to do with the fact that that's what we're trying to do when we create simulations. Being products o

                • but there's no evidence for it (if you have real citations to the contrary, as opposed to uninformed pop-sci speculation, I'll be glad to see it.)

                  I don't know where you draw that line. The original article I read went offline. Here's a bad synopsis:

                  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090203130708.htm [sciencedaily.com]

                  the theorist in question: http://astro.fnal.gov/people/Hogan/ [fnal.gov]

                  The basic idea is that gravity waves are missing. The detector we built to find them hasn't, but has found noise that is a near-perfect ma

                  • Yes, I remember that article, and I think it's an interesting area of research. But "projected holographic universe" != "simulated universe". There's no support in Hogan's work that I can see for the quasi-creationist viewpoint that we're all living inside someone's video game.

                    • There's no support in Hogan's work that I can see for the quasi-creationist viewpoint that we're all living inside someone's video game.

                      As I remember, there are two pieces: the gravity waves are missing, and Plank length is shorter than it should be.

  • It looks like a giant tick to me.

    "SPOON!!!"

  • I was playing with the model after pulling it out of a scanner using a radioactive isotope, and it bit me. Now I find myself sticking to the walls, and having to rescue assorted nubile females from strangely dressed characters while wearing amusing cosplay uniforms. Anyone else having this problem?

  • Are any other species proposed to have evolved from the spiders that existed 300M years ago?
  • C. hindi's front pair of legs were angled toward the front, suggesting they were used to grapple with prey, an 'ambush predator' like the modern-day crab spider, lying in wait for prey to come close.

    Maybe they weren't ambush predators. They are extinct after all; maybe their progeny were eventually ambush predators, but C hindi could have been a poorly designed hunting spider.

  • Problem (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by carrier lost (222597)

    How can these spiders be 300 million years old when the earth is only about 10,000? Did they exist out in space until the earth was created?

    • Kent Hovind has a set of videos on google videos where he answers that problem from his creationist perspective. This is not an endorsement of his viewpoint, but if the question is genuine then that is where to find Kent Hovind's answer.
  • How is this amazing news? What does it prove? that spiders existed 10 zillion years ago? That they looked like spiders do now? Or is it just the fact that they made the 3D model? If so, big deal - they've done it before with other fossils.... *shrug*

  • I, for one, welcome our new digital, 3D modeled, prehistoric, giant spider overlords.

    Well, maybe they weren't giant, but it's creepier this way.

The cost of feathers has risen, even down is up!

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