Largest Spider Fossil Discovered in China

April 21, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

Largest spider fossil belongs to the living genus Nephila, or golden orb-weavers. (Kansas University)
Largest spider fossil belongs to the living genus Nephila, or golden orb-weavers. (Kansas University)
The largest fossilized spider ever found was discovered in Inner Mongolia, China.

The fossil’s well-preserved state gave scientists enough details to identify it as an adult female Nephila jurassica. The common name of the arachnid is the golden orb weaver.

Golden orb spiders can weave the largest webs—creating golden silk discs almost five feet in diameter that are large enough to catch bats and birds.

Paul Selden, director of the Paleontological Institute at the University of Kansas, told Live Science that environmental change must have occurred in Inner Mongolia at some point, for golden orb weavers are now found in tropical environments.

He also said that the insect world was very different for these spiders. "There were many large or medium-sized flying insects around at that time on which it would have fed indiscriminately," said Selden to Live Science.

Additionally, Selden and his colleagues are interested in sexual dimorphism of Nephila jurassica. Female modern golden orb weavers are giant in comparison to their male partners. Selden and his colleagues wish to find a fossil of a male golden orb spider to study the differences.

Details of the findings were published on April 20 in Biology Letters .