A spider’s orb web is one of the most impressive architectural feats in nature, capturing morning dew and insect meals with equal grace. But webbing rarely stands the test of time, especially over millions of years, and researchers have few samples of ancient web to study.
Now, scientists have found a 136 million-year-old piece of amber encasing pieces of web and trapped insects. The finding helps fill in the gaps of the origin of orb webs, and also indicates predatory spiders likely played a role in the evolution of flying insects. The hunk of amber, which was collected in Spain, contains 26 web strands with a mite, a wasp leg, and a beetle stuck to some of the thread by visible droplets of web “glue.” Although these insects are extinct, their size and diversity match the type of prey caught in modern webs.