CT identifies new species of 50-million-year-old spider

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CT has enabled scientists at Ghent University in Belgium to perform a “digital dissection” on a minute amber fossil spider, according to a recent article published online in the October issue of the journal Zootaxa.

David Penney, PhD, University of Manchester, and his colleagues from Ghent University used very high resolution x-ray computed tomography (VHR-CT) to examine the tiny fossils, approximately 1 mm in length, of a 50-million-year-old spider and reveal detailed 3D images of preserved internal organs.

This is the first time the VHR-CT technique has been used to digitally dissect a fossil in amber, Penney said. "Up until recently the only place to do such scans was at The University of Texas, although they never achieved results like these,” he added.

With the information the CTs provided, researchers determined the male spider, found preserved in amber in an area of France known as the Paris Basin, is a new species named Cenotextricella simony, and was close to 53 million years old.

"This technique essentially generates full 3D reconstructions of minute fossils and permits digital dissection of the specimen to reveal the preservation of internal organs," Penney said. "This is definitely the way forward for the study of amber fossils."