|Prehistoric spider discovered in amber
||[Apr. 9th, 2008|04:56 pm]
An amateur fossil collector discovered a prehistoric spider trapped in amber while rummaging through a box of stones in his store.|
Dinosaur enthusiast Terence Collingwood examines his rare find
Terence Collingwood, 37, came across the extremely rare "harvestman" spider, which was busy weaving webs while dinosaurs roamed the earth, at his I Dig Dinos store in Rochester, Kent.
The father-of-three said he knew instantly that the tiny arachnid, preserved in amber the size of a £2 coin, was a rare find.
The fossilised spider, known as the dicranopalpus ramiger, is only the second example of its species ever uncovered.
The arachnid once lived in forests and scaled tree trunks searching for prey, including caterpillars, beetle larvae, and small slugs.
Mr Collingwood said that he was delighted to uncover an item of such historical significance.
He said: "Finding this was pure chance but I realised straight away that it was something special.
"I buy bulk lots of amber to sell and I have to search through them carefully looking for unusual items that other people may have missed."
Mr Collingwood, who sells rare fossils and dinosaur toys at his store, immediately informed the Natural History Museum of his extraordinary discovery.
He has agreed to donate the historic gem to the museum's collection after experts were finally able to accurately date his find.
The harvestman spider is over 40 million years old
He said: "Being able to contribute to the museum's collection is a dream come true.
"It was an agonizing wait, though. I think they had to send it off to Denmark or Germany to be able to date it."
Andrew Ross, the museum's fossil expert, described the find as "particulary impressive".
He said: "Complete harvestmen are rare finds. It's more common to find just the legs in amber where a trapped leg or two were sacrificed so the harvestman could escape the sticky resin.
"This is a particularly impressive example because all its legs are present and still attached to the body. It is a very welcome addition to our collection."
Amber has been described as nature's time capsule, helping scientists uncover secrets about prehistoric wildlife.
It is a fossilised resin that once exuded from tree bark can capture and preserve small insects and other animal or plant debris.
The museum's palaeontology collection includes 5,000 pieces of amber, with many pieces preserving more than one insect.
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