Ancient hermit spider: a unique discovery at the Berlin Museum

The Berlin Museum of Nature has discovered and identified the fossil of the oldest arachnid ever found in Germany. The museum’s curator, Jason Dunlop, studied the fossil and presented a detailed description of it in the journal PalZ. He named the new spider species Arthrolycosa wolterbeeki.

The fossil was discovered in the Pisberg quarry near the city of Osnabrück. Geologist Tim Wolterbeek from Utrecht University found it about four years ago and donated it to a museum. Dating showed that the spider lived about 310-315 million years ago, long before the dinosaurs.

The fossil Arthrolycosa wolterbeeki is the oldest of its kind in Germany and the only representative of the Paleozoic found in the country. It is well preserved despite its considerable age. The spider was small in size, its body reaching about one centimeter in length and its legs about four centimeters. It had a segmented abdomen.

Dunlop assigned the new species to the order Araneae, which is distinct from other groups of spiders. He noted that Arthrolycosa wolterbeeki is one of 12 “coal-bearing” species assigned to this order. When comparing the ancient creature to currently living species, Dunlop found similarities to the brown recluse spider.

Research into previous finds showed that the area where the fossil was found was covered in dense forest in the Paleozoic. This suggests that Arthrolycosa wolterbeeki probably wove its web on the forest floor to catch small prey.

This discovery has important implications for understanding the evolution and history of spiders. The ancient hermit spider is evidence that these creatures already existed on Earth many millions of years ago. It also confirms that Germany was home to various species of spiders long before the dinosaurs appeared.

Experts say that fossils play an important role in studying the history of life on our planet. They help scientists understand what species existed in the past and how they affected the ecosystem. The discovery of Arthrolycosa wolterbeeki adds new data to this area of research.

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