It's Halloween and what could be more fitting than an eyeful of dead, mummified spiders? There's never been a better time to get cozy with ancient arachnids, according to Paul Seldon of the Paleontological Institute at the University of Kansas.
He has been using some of the latest imaging technology -- like this digitally-produced, 3-D CT-scan image -- to give the eight-legged ancestors of today's spiders their first real close-ups. The following are a few others he presented on Oct. 29 at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver.
The best way for a spider to get preserved through the ages is in amber -- which is basically tree sap in which the spider got fatally mucked up. These give some nice photo ops as well, but can be tricky because they are small and, well, stick in amber.
Careful processing of multiple images can bring a lot of details of these Cretaceous spiders into focus that might otherwise be lost to the narrow focus plane of a microscopic view.
Using X-ray CT-scans, the amber spiders can be digitally “removed” from amber and imaged in three dimensions without harming the actual specimen.
Much greater resolution of even smaller spiders is done with synchrotron radiation.
Spiders are also preserved directly in sediments, like this Jurassic spider found in rocks from China.
The Chinese plectreurid spider has left behind an amazing amount of detail.
Death Do Us Part: Male (left) and female (right) giant spiders from the Jurassic, found in rocks from China.