Prehistoric Pests: Spiders

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Spiders: for some people, the sight of one strikes fear into their hearts. For others, they seem to be no more than a nuisance, and perhaps even a welcome one--considering their diet of flies, mosquitoes, and roaches. Some are quite dangerous, and even poisonous, while others hardly pose any kind of threat at all. But where do these odd arachnids come from, and how long have they been creeping around the planet? We did some research to find the answers, and what we found was fascinating...and surprising. Here are some of the most interesting things we discovered.

 

Spiders are Way Older Than Dinosaurs

Lurking spider

According to the Australian Museum, spiders have been around for at least 380 million years based on fossil history. This places them around 150 million years older than the dinosaurs. While none of these prehistoric spiders were dinosaur-sized, it’s kind of fun to imagine spiders hanging around while tyrannosaurus rexes were stomping around the earth.

 

One of the Oldest Spider Fossils Was Found Right in Upstate New York

Panther mountain, former home of one of the oldest spiders ever

The oldest discovered precursor to spiders known as Attercopus fimbriunguis actually had its fossil discovered right here in upstate New York. Attercopus fimbriunguis were a spider-like creature that were able to produce silk but didn’t have the spinnerets to actually weave a web. Fossils of this ancient arachnid were found in the Panther Mountain Formation, which is partially located in Albany County!

 

The Largest Spider Ever Was Almost 2 Feet Long

Big spider

Well ok, this wasn’t a spider exactly, but it was an arachnid. Identified as Megarachne (meaning great spider), fossils of this creature measure around 21 inches long. For comparison, the largest spider currently found on earth is the Goliath Birdeater, which can be as large as 12 inches long, and the infamous tarantula maxes out at 11 inches long. In other words, this creature was nearly double the size of any spider we encounter today.

 

Spider Webs Used to Have a Different Purpose...

Spider web

While today spider webs are notable for their ability to trap spider prey for their first 100 million years in existence spiders actually weren’t able to use their silk to weave web traps. Instead, spiders were probably using their webs as a protective covering for eggs, and perhaps later on as the top layer for ground traps that spiders of this time would create.

 

...And Developed as Plants and Insects Did

Plants budding

As plants and insects became more diverse, spiders adjusted. This meant developing the ability to spin the sorts of webs that we see today to catch all of their potential prey in an easier and more efficient fashion than setting ground traps. With all of these new insects popping up, spiders needed to figure out a way to catch them easier and quicker, and spinning a web achieved just that.

 

And Speaking of Webs…

A spider waiting to trap prey in its web

According to Wikipedia, it is believed that the ability to weave webs has been lost and then re-learned by all different breeds of spiders over millions of years. Neat!

 

So as you can see, we’ve learned quite a bit about the history spiders while doing our research. While quite a bit of this stuff is super interesting, it doesn’t change the fact that there are definitely some spiders that you don’t want lurking about your home. At Thomas Pest Services, our Complete Care Plan will protect your home from spiders as well as a range of other common household pests. Just reach out to us and get your free estimate today!

 

Want to learn more about modern spiders? Here are a few reasons why spiders come out more in the summertime.

 

 


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