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Nightmare fuel for wasps
October 10, 2012 12:14 PM   Subscribe

Researchers at Oregon State University have uncovered a unprecedented find: a spider attacking a wasp, both captured in amber (larger image here). The story, published in the journal Historical Biology, details that the attack occurred some 100 million years ago, during the early Cretaceous, in what is now Myanmar. Both the spider and the wasp belong to now-extinct species. The amber fragment also contained the body of another spider in the same web, which may be the oldest evidence yet for social behaviour in spiders.
posted by ricochet biscuit (41 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Both the spider and wasp species are today extinct. But the type of wasp (Cascoscelio incassus) belongs to a group that today is known to parasitize spider eggs, Poinor said. The attack on the wasp by the bristly orb-weaver spider, Geratonephila burmanica, might then be considered revenge.

Dude. To have your revenge immortalized for 100 million years. Brutal.
posted by King Bee at 12:22 PM on October 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yuck, I hate spiders, but I am so captured by the story. I have to go shiver again.
posted by Yellow at 12:23 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Food chain: spider egg > wasp > spider > amber > human scientist who will doubtless eat the amber
posted by Greg Nog at 12:24 PM on October 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


God creates Wasp-eating spiders. God destroys wasp-eating spiders.. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates wasp-eating spiders Huge Spider-Wasp Hybrids that inherit the Earth.
posted by The Whelk at 12:27 PM on October 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hey guys, my birthday is coming up real soon and an amber pendant with a secret button that makes it play this would be perfect.

Hint hint.
posted by griphus at 12:29 PM on October 10, 2012


Now, every time I'm about to eat a nice dinner, I will be worried about getting encased in tree resin before I'm able to eat.
posted by perhapses at 12:32 PM on October 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


I work with amber for my job. This reminds me of a piece I worked with, a similar specimen from the Dominican Republic (much younger, only about 20 million years old) where a trapjaw ant is being chewed on by an ant 1/5 its size. Amber is awesome.

(Unrelatedly, trapjaw ants are super-cool. They can launch themselves into the air with their mandibles.)
posted by dorque at 12:37 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


On second reading... I never thought I would be so blase about amber that I could describe something casually as "only" 20 million years old.
posted by dorque at 12:38 PM on October 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've tried looking up how live creatures become trapped in amber, but I assume the tree resin responsible is fast-flowing and almost flash freezes these insects, to the point we can make these assertions that they were caught in mid-attack?
posted by CancerMan at 12:40 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I never thought I would be so blase about amber that I could describe something casually as "only" 20 million years old.

20 million years young.
posted by griphus at 12:41 PM on October 10, 2012


Dinosaur feathers!
posted by BWA at 12:46 PM on October 10, 2012


I spent one summer in the Smithsonian, helping transcribe the Latin names for various bits of bugs trapped in amber. It was tremendously fun-- peering into tangled masses of plants and insects; trying to trace the venous structures of long-dead wings; taking photographs to recreate mandibles in 3D; the brief excitement of being listed as 40th author on a paper when I was 17. In many cases, no one had actually looked inside the amber, perhaps ever, to try to figure out the world inside. (If you own amber, take a look!)

Most of all, it was great to gloat at the endless ants and mosquito-like things that they were dead, damn it, unlike the millions of their kind plaguing the swamp of DC in the summer.
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:48 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


R video will beat the knowledge st8 in2 yer hed.

Interesting topic, but christ that was hard to watch.
posted by changoperezoso at 12:49 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dude. To have your revenge immortalized for 100 million years.

Revenge is a dish best served preserved.
posted by The Bellman at 12:51 PM on October 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Lots of cool stuff trapped in amber.
posted by resurrexit at 12:52 PM on October 10, 2012


Revenge is a dish best served preserved.

Mmmmm pickled vengeance.
posted by Gygesringtone at 12:52 PM on October 10, 2012


Also, you can apparently buy amber with things in it.
posted by resurrexit at 12:52 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


"This was the wasp’s worst nightmare, and it never ended."

Scientists went on to describe the wasp's subjective experience of being caught in amber: "Well, biologically speaking, we know that wasps live forever, and are fully conscious of their surroundings, even as they're caught in the vicious predator/prey cycle. So for this wasp, the exact moment of death lasted a full eternity. The wasp, immobilized, must have tried to scream, but found itself unable to do so. Unable to move at all. Total paralysis, terrified, impotent... All attempts to struggle, fruitless.... There was not, could never be, any escape."

Scientists then went silent, staring into space, heedless of their cigarettes slowly burning down to a length of ash between their fingers.

"Awful..." whispered scientists. "...such an awful undeath."

Scientists then got up, leaned over into the blue glow of their laptops, and began playing some Type O Negative, closing their eyes and nodding rhythmically.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:53 PM on October 10, 2012 [24 favorites]


For a hundred thousand dollars, you can get a dime-sized piece with a queen ant mating with a drone ant. Nature!
posted by resurrexit at 12:54 PM on October 10, 2012


Clevah girl.
posted by bicyclefish at 12:56 PM on October 10, 2012


For a hundred thousand dollars, you can get a dime-sized piece with a queen ant mating with a drone ant. Nature!

That should be in a museum, preferably the Smithsonian.
posted by clarknova at 1:06 PM on October 10, 2012


Now, every time I'm about to eat a nice dinner, I will be worried about getting encased in tree resin before I'm able to eat.

So like Pompeii, but all pine-scented. Nice.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:06 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually, I never considered that resin could have fallen from above and engulfed these creatures. I retract my question!
posted by CancerMan at 1:08 PM on October 10, 2012


So this was some sort of Fringe event?
posted by billyfleetwood at 1:10 PM on October 10, 2012


Maybe getting yourself encased in tree resin was a goal for insects, much like some people today get frozen in the hope that scientists in the future will be able to bring them back to life. And, if it were a goal for insects, you'd probably want to bring along some food or a mate.
posted by perhapses at 1:12 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is almost as good as that 85 million year old Jesus that Andres Serrano found preserved in amber from the Christaceous period.
posted by dgaicun at 1:28 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


How to discern real from fake amber: Carefully washing with soap and water, then with just water, should leave a clean specimen ready for this test. Lick the specimen slowly several times, allowing the subtle taste to linger. It should be extremely subtle - real amber has almost no taste at all, leaving at most a very slight, tingly sensation.
posted by Danf at 1:29 PM on October 10, 2012


OK. I licked amber slowly several times, and now we're dating, so I guess it's real.
posted by perhapses at 1:35 PM on October 10, 2012 [11 favorites]


Did it give either of you a slight tingly sensation?
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:37 PM on October 10, 2012


You notice how they didn't include a ruler for scale because they knew people would freak out to learn that the spider was 80 feet tall.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:57 PM on October 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


If used with the right gene splicer, we could be in business.
posted by clavdivs at 2:54 PM on October 10, 2012


We'll spare no expense.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:54 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bellicose was
That wasp's Timbre,
Now we're trapped
Mid-fight in amber.

BURMA-SAVED
posted by ShutterBun at 5:51 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


That is so incredibly cool.

During the mid '70s, The Obratsov Puppet Theater brought their show to Tehran from the Soviet Union. My mother who was a stage actress in Iran did the Farsi narration for their play and grew quite close to some of the performers, taking them out to eat and driving them around Tehran so they could do their shopping (they mostly wanted jeans, any jeans). So when they were leaving they all exchanged gifts, and Mr. Obratsov, the director of the puppet theater/show gave Mom a huge amber necklace with a prehistoric insect frozen inside. Now I want to know how old it is.
posted by Devils Slide at 5:52 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


In Soviet Russia tree eats insect.
posted by Devils Slide at 5:54 PM on October 10, 2012


Metafilter: at most a very slight, tingly sensation.
posted by panboi at 6:45 PM on October 10, 2012


Forget cryrgenics, how about Ambergenics? You could encase your head in amber for re-animation in 20 million years.
posted by lstanley at 1:59 PM on October 11, 2012


But I don't want to spend the next 20 million years all tingly.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:12 PM on October 11, 2012


Oh crap the word tingly has now lost all meaning. Tingly tingly tingly tingly tingly.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:13 PM on October 11, 2012


Must be an adverb. "In a manner characteristic of or pertaining to ting." That's what it means, right? I can't tell anymore.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:13 PM on October 11, 2012


I don't buy the explanation of the spider attacking the wasp and then sap flowed over them both. I'm more likely to buy the explanation that the wasp was stuck in the sap and then the spider tried to exploit that, getting trapped too.

Maybe I'm the sap.
posted by plinth at 8:37 AM on October 12, 2012


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