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3D Images Reconstructed of 300M-Year-Old Spiders

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the things-that-i'm-glad-are-extinct dept.

Earth 88

Hugh Pickens writes "Scientists at Imperial College London have created detailed 3D computer models of two fossilized specimens of ancient creatures called Cryptomartus hindi and Eophrynus prestvicii, closely related to modern-day spiders. The researchers created their images by using a CT scanning device, which enabled them to take 3,000 X-rays of each fossil then compile them into precise 3D models, using custom-designed software. Both spiders roamed the Earth during the Carboniferous period, 359-299 million years ago, when life was emerging from the oceans to live on land. C. hindi's front pair of legs were angled toward the front, suggesting they were used to grapple with prey, an 'ambush predator' like the modern-day crab spider, lying in wait for prey to come close. 'Our models almost bring these ancient creatures back to life and it's really exciting to be able to look at them in such detail,' says researcher Russel Garwood, adding that the technique could be used to return to fossils that have previously been analyzed by conventional means. 'Our study helps build a picture of what was happening during this period early in the history of life on land.'"

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88 comments

Hay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28957837)

Too much X-rays will give cancer to these poors fossils.

Re:Hay (3, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#28958309)

Too much X-rays will give cancer to these poors fossils.

Or make them mutate into land-walking, nuke-making, fish with hair.
       

Re:Hay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28958899)

I do more than just making nukes!

But... (2, Interesting)

Abreu (173023) | more than 4 years ago | (#28957839)

...were they giant spiders?

The article doesn't say!

This is SCIENCE you numb-skull!!! (1, Funny)

dmomo (256005) | more than 4 years ago | (#28957865)

Of COURSE they're GIANT spiders. If they weren't would it be News for Nerds? And would it matter? I think not.

Re:This is SCIENCE you numb-skull!!! (1)

cold1s (892039) | more than 4 years ago | (#28958557)

Spider Pig Spider Pig......

Re:This is SCIENCE you numb-skull!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28961927)

The simpsons blows ass.

Re:This is SCIENCE you numb-skull!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28962923)

You blow ass...

Re:This is SCIENCE you numb-skull!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28968805)

In Soviet Russia, Ass blows You...

Re:This is SCIENCE you numb-skull!!! (1)

Gunnsy (1612637) | more than 4 years ago | (#28958667)

Dont think that that giant doctor who battled some much bigger in my youth if i recall

Re:This is SCIENCE you numb-skull!!! (1)

interploy (1387145) | more than 4 years ago | (#28960687)

Yes, the headline of the article proved to me: "Scary ancient spiders revealed..." Very scientific.
And is it just me, or do they look more like ticks than spiders?

Re:But... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28957933)

Both Cryptomartus hindi and Eophrynus prestivicii were around the size of a 50 pence piece ... 27 mm

Re:But... (1)

dmomo (256005) | more than 4 years ago | (#28957993)

Well... that's just your opinion. I bet these pre-historic spiders are HUGE! Maybe even close to the size of spiders from the future.

Re:But... (3, Insightful)

LKM (227954) | more than 4 years ago | (#28958409)

Yes. Clearly, GP wasn't there when the spiders were actually alive. For all we know, they were kilometers in length and just shrunk due to being really old. I think that is the most likely explanation.

Re:But... (5, Funny)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 4 years ago | (#28958537)

BUT! 3M years ago, 50 pence pieces were fucking huge!

Re:But... (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 4 years ago | (#28960651)

Well, if you compensate for the inflation as you go back in time, you certainly end up with 50 pence pieces that are fucking huge boulders of gold.

Re:But... (2, Interesting)

Spacelem (189863) | more than 4 years ago | (#28961469)

Due to the exponential nature of inflation, say a meagre 5% per year, for 3x10^8 years, that's 1.05^(3x10^8)... and GNU Octave overflows.

Okay, let's try something a bit smaller, say 0.0001% per year inflation. That's an increase of 1.942x10^130. That's around 10^50 times as many atoms as there are in the known universe. So your golden boulders are about 10^50 times as big as the universe. Yep, that's pretty huge.

Let's go really small, say 0.000001% per year inflation. That's better, they've only increased to 20 times the size.

Still, the amount of economic growth that was going on in the first 200 million years probably wasn't that big. But let's say it remained constant until the year 1 CE. That's 2000 years of interest at 5%, and we're up to 10^40 times the size again.

At this point I start freaking out that the whole conversation was about spiders!

Re:But... (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 4 years ago | (#28963755)

I salute you, Sir. I've no idea if you're right, but I wish I even had the confidence in my math skills to start running calculations from ancient imaginary scenarios, getting astronomical numbers for results, and then to post my workings out on slashdot.

Re:But... (1)

Spacelem (189863) | more than 4 years ago | (#28970439)

As a maths graduate, I'm confident that the methodology is correct, and the major point was to show the ballpark that the golden boulder would be vastly bigger than the known universe. I could improve the accuracy though.

Price of gold = £9.80/g, density of gold = 19.3g/cm^3, atomic weight of gold = 196.97g/mol. So 50p of gold has a mass of 0.5/9.8 = 0.051g, a size of 0.051/19.3 = 2.64x10^-3cm^3 or 2.64x10^-9m^3, this lump of gold has 0.051/196.96xL = 1.56x10^20 atoms (L is Avogadro's constant).

We previously established that 300 million years of (pretty rubbish) inflation at 0.0001% is an increase by a factor of 1.000001^(3x10^8) = 1.942x10^130. So the 50p piece of gold is now 5.134x10^121 m^3, and contains 3.030x10^150 atoms.

The universe is estimated to have a diameter of 7.8x10^10 light years, and about 10^80 atoms. So the lump of gold has 3.030x10^70 times as many atoms as the universe. Of course space is pretty sparse, so let's work out how big this boulder is going to be.

Let's assume the gold hasn't collapsed in on itself, but has instead formed a gold ball. It will have a diameter of 2*(.75/pi*5.134x10^121)^(1/3) = 4.611x10^40m, or 4.874x10^24 light years. This is 6.249x10^13 times or 62.5 trillion (that's 62.5 billion in traditional maths) times the size of the universe.

At this point a physicist can take over and tell me exactly what happens when you have a boulder of gold 6.25x10^13 times the size of the universe floating around in space.

Re:But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28967997)

27 m&m's? is that like a hammock of cake?

Re:But... (3, Insightful)

smallshot (1202439) | more than 4 years ago | (#28957959)

From the article:

"Both Cryptomartus hindi and Eophrynus prestivicii were around the size of a 50 pence piece and they roamed the Earth during the Carboniferous period, 359 - 299 million years ago. This was a time before the dinosaurs, when life was emerging from the oceans to live on land."

At that age, I'm amazed they look so much like the spider I killed on my driveway the other day.

Re:But... (1)

Abreu (173023) | more than 4 years ago | (#28958069)

"Both Cryptomartus hindi and Eophrynus prestivicii were around the size of a 50 pence piece

So, if they were not Volkswagen-sized spiders, why is this news?

Re:But... (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#28959157)

Why?
How would you improve on a spider's general design?
What would you point to as an obvious weakness?

Shit like spiders and sharks have stayed relatively the same for hundreds of millions of years because what they have works.

Re:But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28958049)

I, for one, welcome our new digitally reconstructed giant spider overlords.

Re:But... (1)

tocs (866673) | more than 4 years ago | (#28958569)

"Both Cryptomartus hindi and Eophrynus prestivicii were around the size of a 50 pence piece" How big is a 50 pence piece?

Re:But... (2, Informative)

pluther (647209) | more than 4 years ago | (#28958841)

It's about 1.36x10^-14 the size of Alaska.

Re:But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28961189)

Haha, oh, now that makes more sense. For better clarification, can someone please calculate how big this spider would be compared to say, a library of congress?

-- gid

Re:But... (1)

smitty97 (995791) | more than 4 years ago | (#28961407)

Library of Congresses is a unit of data, i want to know how many football fields long it is and how many 747s it weighs

Re:But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28961893)

Uncue the political jokes and play them again!

Re:But... (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#28960977)

It does say. the size of a 50 pence piece. Now I have never seen a 50 pence piece, so I will assume they are the size of an SUV.

Illiteracy is the reason for not RFTA??!!?? (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 4 years ago | (#28963675)

Yes, the article does say what size they were.
FTFA:

Both Cryptomartus hindi and Eophrynus prestivicii were around the size of a 50 pence piece and they roamed the Earth during the Carboniferous period, 359 - 299 million years ago.

[my emphasis]

50 pence piece== 27.3mm, or a 'hair bigger than an inch'[for those in the USA].
A one inch spider hardly qualifies as being 'giant'.

fp (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28957841)

Rob Malda has a loose asshole.

Re:fp (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28957967)

Don't fuck him then!

That's no spider (3, Funny)

oskard (715652) | more than 4 years ago | (#28957903)

That's a headcrab!

Re:That's no spider (1)

Missing_dc (1074809) | more than 4 years ago | (#28957963)

I think it's a giant tick. check the first link.

Re:That's no spider (1)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 4 years ago | (#28958847)

When I saw the image that's the first thing I thought as well. Glad to see I wasn't the only one who saw that.

tickspiders! (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 4 years ago | (#28960843)

It does look very tick-like! I wonder if they are more closely related to tickspiders [americanarachnology.org] than true spiders(of Araneae). Although a lot of Arachnida look very similar (includes ticks, spiders and ricinulei).

Re:That's no spider (1)

metaforest (685350) | more than 4 years ago | (#28968173)

Ticks, Lice, Crabs, Spiders share a common ancestor. So it is not surprising at all that a 300Myo spider might look like a tick or a louse.

Great (1)

sys.stdout.write (1551563) | more than 4 years ago | (#28957937)

We've reduced 300m-year-old life to the graphics of an 80s video game.

Thanks, science.

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28960793)

I think you mean '300m-year-old death'.

Re:Great (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#28962659)

Human brains are really, really good at visual pattern recognition. Having this kind of model to play with is very useful in understanding the anatomy of the creature we're studying. Looking at individual images of the fossils, or even the fossils themselves, is just not the same thing; there are patterns in the totality of the reconstructed image that we might miss looking at things one at a time.

Also, I don't remember playing any video games that looked that good in the 80s.

How'd they get the spiders to stay still? (1)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 4 years ago | (#28957955)

I don't know about these guys, but whenever I try and do a 3D image of a spider it just crawls away. By the time I get to actually rendering an image, the spider is flat.

Re:How'd they get the spiders to stay still? (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#28958991)

Try spraying it with acrylic first.

Or using any of the commercial products used to kill bugs without destroying their shape. Hell, a kid's amateur entymology set comes with one of those, when I was a kid it was a liquid in a dropper vial. The stuff worked well, assuming I had the critter in a net first. Then you wait for the liquid to dry, and presto! -- you've got a mountable (and imagable) specimen.

Re:How'd they get the spiders to stay still? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28960615)

whoosh...

Re:How'd they get the spiders to stay still? (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 4 years ago | (#28992003)

Try spraying it with acrylic first.

Or using any of the commercial products used to kill bugs without destroying their shape.

They address this point somewhat in the paper which TFA abstracts :

Traditional approaches rely on splitting concretions and studying the portion of the fossil thus revealed; morphological data recovery is typically incomplete. In arachnids, for example, the hydraulically extended legs (Parry & Brown 1959) curl underneath the body after death owing to the absence of haemolymph pressure and their distal ends are typically hidden within the matrix in three-dimensionally preserved fossils.

I'm relatively impressed by the 2000x2000 pixel X-ray detector used, and the deduced 15-25micrometre voxel size.
TFP also mentions that Eophrynus more resembles "harvestmen" (I don't know foreign terms for these arachnids). Sutton and crew have been doing some sterling work on the microstructure of fossils over the last few years.

Re:How'd they get the spiders to stay still? (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#28960515)

Do what these guys did. Squish it between two rocks for 300 million years. That should make it sit still long enough to take its picture.

The imaging protocol is no soo special ... (4, Informative)

gerddie (173963) | more than 4 years ago | (#28958145)

The spiders have the size of a 50 pence piece, which means they are below 3cm large. I'd say they where using a standard micro CT scanner, depending on the protocol that gives you about these 3000 projections. The software to reconstruct 3D volume data from the projections usually comes with the scanner, and going from volume data to a real model has been done for ages. Of course you can write your own reconstruction software, but that's just one amongst many.
Actually having a fossil that old to begin with, well that's another story.

ummmm... (0, Troll)

PumpkinDog (1253988) | more than 4 years ago | (#28958281)

This looks like a headline in a newspaper I would make on notebook paper with colored pencils as a child. Except my spider drawings were cooler.

More importantly... (1)

craenor (623901) | more than 4 years ago | (#28958327)

How big is it? I could care less what it looks like without knowing if it's the size of a dime, a dinner plate or a small dog.

They look more like tics... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28958451)

At least to me.

Blasphemy! (4, Funny)

AP31R0N (723649) | more than 4 years ago | (#28958717)

The Earth is only 6000 years old. Clearly this "fossil" is the work of the Devil.

Either that, to Adam had to squish these for Eve (and his other two rarely mentioned wives).

Re:Blasphemy! (-1, Redundant)

AP31R0N (723649) | more than 4 years ago | (#28958753)

", or Adam"

Goddamn lack of an edit button! Other fora have edit buttons.

God damn that lack of an edit button! Damn its absence to HELL!

Re:Blasphemy! (1, Troll)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#28958779)

The Earth is only 6000 years old. Clearly this "fossil" is the work of the Devil.

Right, because you know for a fact that the fossil is older.

Re:Blasphemy! (0, Redundant)

AP31R0N (723649) | more than 4 years ago | (#28959041)

Just like you know, for a fact, that the Earth isn't older than about 6000 years.

How many regressions/reductions do we need to hit absurdity?

Are you the best troll ever?

Re:Blasphemy! (0)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#28959167)

We could always go by the word of the guy who's been here all along.

Oh wait, you don't believe God exists. Nevermind, this argument's going nowhere.

Re:Blasphemy! (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#28961017)

Corr3ection:
No one has ever shown any good evidence of God. It's not a matter of 'not believing' it's a matter of no evidence.

Actually, I have done many tests for God, and the all failed.
Really, there is no God.

Re:Blasphemy! (-1, Troll)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#28961135)

~evidence(God) != evidence(~God)

Besides which, your claim that "no one has shown good evidence of God" is no more valid than my claim that "no one has shown good evidence of evolution". Neither does anything to prove or disprove any theory.

Re:Blasphemy! (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 4 years ago | (#28962193)

Actually, I have done many tests for God, and the all failed.

You can only test for something specific - your experiment can only be as good as your model. Therefore, your statement pre-supposes a definition. This is what the theological non-congnitivists are always on about.

I used to think there was no god, now science points towards us living in a simulated universe, which portends a creator. He may be a dork in a computer lab, though, which ain't gonna make the holy rollers happy.

Re:Blasphemy! (2, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#28962487)

now science points towards us living in a simulated universe

Huh?

AFAICT, the "simulated universe" is a fun idea to play with, but there's no evidence for it (if you have real citations to the contrary, as opposed to uninformed pop-sci speculation, I'll be glad to see it.) Now, it is true that we are increasingly able to simulate certain aspects of the universe with impressive accuracy ... which probably has to do with the fact that that's what we're trying to do when we create simulations. Being products of the universe in which we live, it's not too surprising that our simulations tend toward the nature of that universe.

Re:Blasphemy! (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 4 years ago | (#28963019)

but there's no evidence for it (if you have real citations to the contrary, as opposed to uninformed pop-sci speculation, I'll be glad to see it.)

I don't know where you draw that line. The original article I read went offline. Here's a bad synopsis:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090203130708.htm [sciencedaily.com]

the theorist in question: http://astro.fnal.gov/people/Hogan/ [fnal.gov]

The basic idea is that gravity waves are missing. The detector we built to find them hasn't, but has found noise that is a near-perfect match for a predictive model by Hogan that our Universe is a 2D shell and the 3D we experience is a 'holographic' projection from that quantized shell. In a real universe there ought to be gravity waves.

I don't have a PhD in particle physics, but that's my understanding of the idea. To the GP's point, on Facebook I list my religion as 'Free Thinker'. To quote the philosopher Kevin Smith:

I think it's better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier. Life should malleable and progressive; working from idea to idea permits that. Beliefs anchor you to certain points and limit growth; new ideas can't generate. Life becomes stagnant.

Re:Blasphemy! (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#28963267)

Yes, I remember that article, and I think it's an interesting area of research. But "projected holographic universe" != "simulated universe". There's no support in Hogan's work that I can see for the quasi-creationist viewpoint that we're all living inside someone's video game.

Re:Blasphemy! (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 4 years ago | (#28963313)

There's no support in Hogan's work that I can see for the quasi-creationist viewpoint that we're all living inside someone's video game.

As I remember, there are two pieces: the gravity waves are missing, and Plank length is shorter than it should be.

It bit me! (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#28960413)

I was playing with the model after pulling it out of a scanner using a radioactive isotope, and it bit me. Now I find myself sticking to the walls, and having to rescue assorted nubile females from strangely dressed characters while wearing amusing cosplay uniforms. Anyone else having this problem?

Suggesting (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#28961583)

C. hindi's front pair of legs were angled toward the front, suggesting they were used to grapple with prey, an 'ambush predator' like the modern-day crab spider, lying in wait for prey to come close.

Maybe they weren't ambush predators. They are extinct after all; maybe their progeny were eventually ambush predators, but C hindi could have been a poorly designed hunting spider.

Problem (1, Offtopic)

carrier lost (222597) | more than 4 years ago | (#28961597)

How can these spiders be 300 million years old when the earth is only about 10,000? Did they exist out in space until the earth was created?

Re:Problem (1)

mtthwbrnd (1608651) | more than 4 years ago | (#28961935)

Kent Hovind has a set of videos on google videos where he answers that problem from his creationist perspective. This is not an endorsement of his viewpoint, but if the question is genuine then that is where to find Kent Hovind's answer.

Re:Problem (1)

carrier lost (222597) | more than 4 years ago | (#28962173)

The question was an attempt at humor.

But probably not nearly as funny as a Kent Hovind video.

big deal. (1)

idigitallDotCom (1396193) | more than 4 years ago | (#28963079)

How is this amazing news? What does it prove? that spiders existed 10 zillion years ago? That they looked like spiders do now? Or is it just the fact that they made the 3D model? If so, big deal - they've done it before with other fossils.... *shrug*

Prehistoric spiders (1)

daem0n1x (748565) | more than 4 years ago | (#28969693)

I, for one, welcome our new digital, 3D modeled, prehistoric, giant spider overlords.

Well, maybe they weren't giant, but it's creepier this way.

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