Selden Paper Published

Monday, December 9, 2013

Giant spider

Paul Selden, director of the Paleontological Institute, has learned that his paper will be in the upcoming issue of Naturwissenschaften

DOI 10.1007/s00114-013-1121-7. The paper isn't yet online, but the abstract follows, below. KU News will write about this later this week when Brendan Lynch is available. 

"A giant spider from the Jurassic of China reveals greater diversity of the orbicularian stem group."

Paul A. Selden & ChungKun Shih & Dong Ren

A large female spider, Nephila jurassica, was described from Middle Jurassic strata of north-east China and placed in the modern genus Nephila (family Nephilidae) on the basis of many morphological similarities, but, as with many ancient fossils, the single specimen lacked synapomorphies of the family (Selden et al. 2011). In order to test the placement within the nephilid phylogenetic tree, Kuntner et al. (2013) calibrated the molecular phylogeny using N. jurassica in three different scenarios based on inferred mitochondrial substitution rates. They concluded that N. jurassica fitted better as a stem orbicularian than a nephilid. Now, a giant male spider has been discovered at the same locality that yielded N. jurassica. The two sexes are considered conspecific based on their similar morphological features, size, and provenance. The male cannot be accommodated in Nephilidae because of its pedipalp morphology, so the new genus Mongolarachne and family Mongolarachnidae are erected for the species. Comparison with possibly related families show that Mongolarachnidae is most likely on the orbicularian stem, close to other cribellate orbicularians (e.g., Deinopoidea), which suggests a greater diversity of cribellate orbicularians during the Middle Jurassic.

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