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American Association for the Advancement of Science

Sticky spider web caught bugs millions of years ago

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Have you ever touched a spider's web? If you have, you know they are sticky but also pretty easy to break. It's hard to believe a spider's web could last for millions of years, but one web did. Scientists from Spain and the United States say they found a 110-million spider web that still has bug parts sticking to it.

Click here for a high resolution photograph.

The web found by Enrique Peņalver of Universitat de Barcelona in Spain and his fellow scientists was inside a piece of amber, which is really old tree sap that is as hard as a rock. It's not a whole web, just some pieces, but the scientists could still see a lot of cool things in it. There's a mite and a fly and a wasp leg snagged in the web by sticky glue drops. The scientists say it's the oldest web with bug parts that anyone has ever found.

It's hard to tell what the whole web might have looked like, since most of it is missing. But the scientists say it might have looked like the sticky round nets that we can find in our own backyards. Those kinds of webs are very good at catching bugs that fly.

Click here for a high resolution photograph.

Another team of scientists also thinks these webs might have been around for a very long time. Spider sleuth Jessica Garb and her fellow scientists found out that all spiders that spin the round net webs make some of the same kinds of string for their webs. The great-great-grandma of these spiders lived about 136 million years, so these webs were probably catching bugs when the dinosaurs lived.


The spider studies appear in the 23 June issue of the journal Science.