Ancient Tick Has Been Trapped In Amber For 100 Million Years

Posted: Jun 17 2018, 1:50am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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Ancient Tick has been Trapped in Amber for 100 Million Years
Tick wrapped in spider silk is trapped inside amber. Credit: University of Kansas

The fossil is among the oldest tick specimens known to science

A German collector has discovered a remarkable fossilized tick that underwent multiple unfortunate incidents around 100 million years ago. First, the hapless tick stumbled into a spider’s web. The spider on the web quickly wrapped the struggling tick up in silk and impeded its movement. To make things even worse, sticky sap dripped onto the tick and immobilized it for eternity. Over the years, the sap fossilized into amber and was later discovered by a German collector named Patrick Müller who was searching in Myanmar for Burmese amber pieces. The piece of amber clearly shows a well-preserved tick wrapped in spider silk.

The discovery is remarkable because it is the oldest tick specimen in the fossil record and also the only known fossilized tick caught by a spider.

“Ticks already are known from the Burmese amber – but it's unusual to find one wrapped in spider silk. We’re not sure if the spider wrapped it in order to eat it later or if it was to get it out of the way and stop it from wriggling and destroying its web. That's something spiders do." Paul Selden, a professor of geology at the University of Kansas, said in a statement.

Ticks in Burmese amber are rare. However, few have been discovered in the past. The latest discovery adds to the small list of ticks trapped inside the amber.

“They're rare because ticks don't crawl around on tree trunks," said Selden. "Amber is tree resin, so it tends to capture things that crawl around on bark or the base of the tree. But ticks tend to be on long grass or bushes, waiting for passing animals to brush up against them, though some of them can be on birds or squirrels, or maybe a little crawling dinosaur."

Researchers are certain that the ancient tick was bound in spider silk. Its threads have angles that are associated with spider silk. But researchers are unable to determine the spider species that wrapped the tick because of the lack of fossil record.

“We don't know what kind of spider this was. A spider's web is stretched between twigs to catch prey that flies or bumps or crawls into it. As prey gets stuck, it adheres to the web and starts to struggle. Maybe some things can escape after some struggle, so the spider rushes to it out from hiding and wraps it in swaths of silk to immobilize it, to stop it escaping or destroying the web. Then the spider can bite it and inject gastric fluid to eat it or venom to subdue it as well,” said Selden. “It's really just an interesting little story – a piece of frozen behavior and an interaction between two organisms.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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