London: Ever heard of
a stunning makeover to a creature millions of years old?
Well, scientists here have used the very latest computer-imaging
technology to produce stunning 3-D versions of a
49-million-year-old spider, trapped inside an opaque piece of
University of Manchester researchers, working with colleagues in
Germany, created the intricate images using X-ray computed
tomography to study the remarkable spider, which can barely be
seen under the microscope in the old and darkened amber.
Scientists showed that the amber fossil, housed in the Berlin
Natural History Museum, is a member of a living genus of the
Huntsman spiders (Sparassidae), a group of often large, active,
free-living spiders that are hardly ever trapped in amber,
according to a Manchester statement, published in
"More than 1,000 species of fossil spider have been described,
many of them from amber," said David Penney, from Manchester's
Faculty of Life Sciences.
"The best-known source is Baltic amber which is about 49 million
years old, and which has been actively studied for over 150 years.
"A problem here is that these old, historical amber pieces have
reacted with oxygen over time and are now often dark or cracked,
making it hard to see the animal specimens inside," said Penney.
"The results were surprising," said Penney. "Computed tomography
produced 3D images and movies of astounding quality, which allowed
us to compare the finest details of the amber fossil with
similar-looking living spiders."