A 100-million-year-old piece of Burmese amber has frozen in time what was undoubtedly the worst day of an insect's life.
The specimen, discovered by a German collector who was touring Myanmar in search of objects of scientific value, contains the remains of a tic that was buried in amber only after being captured and wrapped in silk by a spider.
The unusual discovery offers a fragment of what life was like in the Cretaceous period, highlighting a small interaction in the complex ecosystem that prospered millions of years ago.
The extraordinary specimen contains the remains of a tick that was buried in amber only after being captured and wrapped in silk by a spider . Although ticks have been found in Burmese amber previously, these circumstances are quite rare, given the behavior of ticks
WHAT IS AMBER?
Amber has been used in jewelry for thousands of years, and is often found remarkably well-preserved materials from eras for a long time.
The translucent substance of golden color is formed when the resin of extinct coniferous trees hardens and then fossilizes.
Insects, plant material, pollen and other creatures are often trapped in the resin causing them to be buried after solidification.
"It really is a show of behavior," says Paul Selden, distinguished professor of geology at the University of Kansas and director of the Paleontological Institute of the KU Institute of Biodiversity and Museum of Natural History. .
& # 39; Ticks are already known from Burmese amber, but it is rare to find a spider silk envelope.
& # 39; We are not sure if the spider wrapped it in or to eat it later or to remove it from the path and prevent it from twisting and destroying the network.
& # 39; That's something the spiders do & # 39;
The remarkable piece of amber was initially discovered by the collector Patrick Müller, who passed it to the scientist Jason Dunlop at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin.
He was later taken to the Institute of Microbiology of the Bundeswehr, and analyzed by an international team of experts.
Although ticks have been found in Burmese Amber, these circumstances are quite rare, given the behavior of ticks.
"They are rare because ticks do not crawl on the trunks of trees," Selden said.
Amber is tree resin, so it tends to capture things that creep through the bark or the base of the tree.
& # 39; But ticks tend to be on grass or long bushes, waiting for passing animals to rub against them, although some may be on birds or squirrels, or maybe a small creeping dinosaur. & # 39;  The tick may have been buried in the ground when the resin dripped from a nearby tree, say the researchers.
While ticks are not a staple in a spider's diet, it is known that arachnids eat them from time to time. For the most part, however, the history between these two ancient creatures remains a mystery
Even more unusual are their silk ties.
It is known that fungal filaments that may have a similar appearance grow around dead ticks, but experts say that this is not the case here.
& # 39; We thought it was spider silk because of the angles that create the threads & # 39; said Selden.
Also, in the article, we show an image of a tic that began to decompose – and the fungus of that tick grows from its orifices – from the inside out.
& # 39; While these threads are wrapped externally and do not concentrate in the holes & # 39;
If it was not extraordinary enough, the researchers also say that this is the first documentation of a garrapaticidal interaction in the fossil record.
Even more unusual are its silk ties. It is known that fungal filaments that may have a similar appearance grow around dead ticks, but experts say that this is not the case here. "We believe that this was spider silk because of the angles that the threads make", according to the researcher
Although ticks are not a staple food in a spider's diet, it is known that arachnids eat them from time to time .
For the most part, however, the history between these two ancient creatures remains a mystery.
& # 39; We do not know what kind of spider this was, & # 39; said Selden. "A spider web stretches between twigs to catch prey that fly or collide or crawl inside it."
As the prey gets stuck, it sticks to the net and starts fighting. they can escape after a fight, so the spider rushes out of hiding and wraps it in silk bands to immobilize it, to prevent it from escaping or destroying the net.
This prevents the prey from hit the back – itching or biting: once it is wrapped in silk, it can not move, and then the spider can bite it and inject gastric fluid to eat it or poison it to subdue it too. & # 39;