Fossilized spider was biggest ever

April 21, 2011 at 7:21 PM

LAWRENCE, Kan., April 21 (UPI) -- A 165-million-year-old fossilized spider with a 6-inch leg span, found in China, is the largest prehistoric spider ever found, a U.S. paleontologist says.

Paul Selden, a paleontologist from University of Kansas, said the fossil he discovered in Inner Mongolia is of a Golden Orb Weaver, giant spiders that can grow bigger than a human hand and that are still extant, The Daily Telegraph reported Thursday.

The fossil is so perfectly preserved experts were able not only to identify its species but confirm it was an adult female.

Golden Orb Weavers are "common and spectacular" inhabitants of tropical and subtropical regions, with females weaving webs of yellow silk 5 feet wide that shine like gold in sunlight, Selden said.

The fossil find, dubbed Nephila jurassica, suggests the climate in northern China was warm and humid millions of years ago, he said.

The discovery means "nephilids" are the longest-running genus known to man in terms of age, scientists said.

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