How It Works

A 100 million-year-old tick wrapped in spider silk discovered in an amber tomb 

An ancient spider and tick were involved in a story from pre-history would have been forever lost had it not been for the tree resin than dripped from a tree and entombed the critters. The portion of amber was discovered by a collector, Patrick Müller, who was searching for pieces that may have scientific value, shows the tick wrapped in the threads of spider silk who came to an untimely end before being encased in silk. The specimen was passed onto Jason Dunlop – a scientist at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin who contacted tick expert Lidia Chitimia-Dobler and Paul Selden. Paul Selden, professor of geology at the University of Kansas and director of the Paleontological Institute at the KU Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum, has commented in a press release;”Ticks already are known from the Burmese amber — but it’s unusual to find one wrapped in spider silk. We’re not sure if the spider wrapped it in order to eat it later or if it was to get it out of the way and stop it from wriggling and destroying its web.”

While the team are unable to accurately determine the species of spider, the finding is significantly rare – ticks are rarely found on tree trunks around tree resin, and are generally on the forest floor waiting for a warm-blooded animal, so there are few natural history specimens like this one that has been described recently in the journal Cretaceous Research.

“It’s really just an interesting little story — a piece of frozen behaviour and an interaction between two organisms,” he said. “Rather than being the oldest thing or the biggest thing, it’s nice to be able to preserve some animal interaction and show it was a living ecosystem.”

Image Credit: University of Kansas


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