A Devonian Spinneret: Early Evidence of Spiders and Silk Use

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Science  27 Oct 1989:
Vol. 246, Issue 4929, pp. 479-481
DOI: 10.1126/science.246.4929.479


A nearly complete spider spinneret was found in Middle Devonian rocks (about 385 to 380 million years old) near Gilboa, New York. This is the earliest evidence yet discovered for silk production from opisthosomal spigots, and therefore for spiders. Two previously known Devonian fossils described as spiders lack any apomorphies of the order Araneae and are probably not spiders. The spigots of the Devonian spinneret resemble those of members of the living suborder Mesothelae, but the number of spigots and their distribution are like those of members of the suborder Opisthothelae, infraorder Mygalomorphae. The Devonian spider belonged to a clade that may be the sister group of all other spiders, of Mesothelae, or of Opisthothelae.

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