410 Million-Year-Old Spider Walks Again, Virtually

Image: Arachnid
Researchers recently reconstructed the gait of a 410 million-year-old arachnid using a computer graphics program.R. Garwood / J. Dunlop

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/ Source: Live Science

An ancient ancestor to spiders was able to creep again, sort of, in a new video that recreates the walk of the 410-million-year-old beast.

The arachnid's creepy gait was reconstructed based on paper-thin cross-sections of the creature's limbs fossilized in rock in Scotland.

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The fossils were found in the Rhynie Chert, a formation where silica-laden water bubbled up from volcanic hot springs, instantly petrifying lichen, plants and primitive insects in stunning detail. [Video: See The Ancient Arachnid's Creepy Walk]

The team used several specimens of the extinct spider ancestor, named Paleocharinus, which were housed in the Natural History Museum in London. When the extinct spider ancestor crawled about Earth during the Devonian Period — between 416 million and 358 million years ago — most life still lived in the oceans, though the first insects, including Paleocharinus, first emerged on land.

The new simulation suggests that the creature moved much like modern cursorial spiders, which walk throughout the day to chase prey and run to evade predators. Paleocharinus may have been an ambush predator, sneaking up on prey and pouncing, the researchers write in a paper published in Tuesday's issue of the Journal of Paleontology.

"Long before our ancestors came out of the sea, these early arachnids were top dog of the food chain," study co-author Russell Garwood, a paleontologist in the University of Manchester, said in a statement.

During its heyday, the arachnid was more widespread than spiders are today, Garwood said. But the loss of swampy forests, predation by four-legged creatures, and the rise of spiders may have doomed these creatures to extinction.

— Tia Ghose, LiveScience

This is a condensed version of a report from LiveScience. Read the full report. Follow Tia Ghose on Twitter and Google+. Follow LiveScience on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.