A tick that had been tightly wrapped in a spider’s web was found fossilized in amber recently, a first for the scientific community. Amber has been found containing spider silk, and even spider silk with other insects wrapped inside of it, but it is the added tick that makes this find such a big one. In the first place, few fossil ticks have been found before. But the real kicker is that scientists have never before found preserved evidence of ancient ticks and spiders interacting. It’s like finding the arachnid version of the Holy Grail. So, let’s just say it’s a pretty big deal and scientists are getting pretty excited about it.
The amber the tick was found inside was dated to around 99 million years ago, making the amber alone some of the world’s oldest and most valuable to the scientific community. Add in the tick plus the spider silk and you have what amounts to one very special piece of fossilized tree resin. And it is all the result of a tick having a very bad day a long time ago. Scientists think that the tick was probably hiding in some vegetation, where it was looking at latching onto and feeding on some small mammal or a tree climbing, feathered dinosaur. The spider must have intercepted the poor tick before it could get to its meal when it fell into its web by mistake. Scientists think it likely that spiders built their webs close to the cavities in trees where these smaller dinosaurs resided, maybe even stretching their webs across the entrance to these nesting holes. The spider quickly wrapped its tick cousin in a spider silk straitjacket, either to trap the threat or save it for a midnight snack. Unfortunately, the tick’s day only got worse as it struggled to free itself from the tight binds while oozing tree resin slowly made its way towards the prisoner. It was all for naught, as the tick was indeed enveloped in the resin, and its struggle to escape its confines was forever preserved in amber. It was certainly lucky for modern scientists, though.
What do you think scientists can learn from this incredible evidence of ancient ticks and spiders interacting?