December 16, 2008—The world's oldest spider web (above) has been found in a piece of amber on the south coast of England, scientists announced recently.
Amateur paleontologist Jamie Hiscocks found the amber deposits, long hidden by sands and tides, and gave them to an Oxford University team.
Until the new find, the oldest known amber containing ancient animals dated to the Middle Cretaceous period, about 120 million years ago.
(Related: "Oldest Known Spiderweb Found in Ancient Amber" [June 22, 2006].)
But Oxford's Martin Brasier and Laura Cotton have now pushed back the "amber window" to 140 million years ago, during the heyday of the dinosaurs.
The scientists used computer-imaging techniques to create detailed images of "supremely delicate" fossil structures, such as silk threads and forest fungi.
Early observations of the fossil show that the threads resemble silk spun by modern spiders.