I’ve never understood the phobia about spiders. I know people who live in mortal fear of them, but to me they’re just friendly little visitors to my home, being neighborly and eating the annoying bugs and flies.

So, depending on how you come down on spiders, this video either comes with an enthusiastic encouragement or a trigger warning. It shows how a 410 million-year-old spiderish creature called a trigonotarbid arachnid might have crawled about.

Researchers from The University of Manchester and the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin studied fossils from the Natural History Museum in London to work out the range of motion of the trigonotarbid’s limbs and create the computer animation.

The trigonotarbid was one of the first land predators. The fact that early arachnids were among the first things to walk the earth and go, “Hey, I should kill things here!” doesn’t help their rep, I know.

“When it comes to early life on land, long before our ancestors came out of the sea, these early arachnids were top dog of the food chain,” said author Dr Russell Garwood, a palaeontologist in the University of Manchester’s School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences. “They are now extinct, but from about 300 to 400 million years ago, seem to have been more widespread than spiders. Now we can use the tools of computer graphics to better understand and recreate how they might have moved – all from thin slivers of rock, showing the joints in their legs.” 

Advances in computer graphics and open-source software made it easier for the scientists to bring the creature back to life. The model was created with Blender, an open-source animation too.

Co-author Jason Dunlop, a curator at the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, said: “These fossils – from a rock called the Rhynie chert – are unusually well-preserved. During my PhD I could build up a pretty good idea of their appearance in life. This new study has gone further and shows us how they probably walked. For me, what’s really exciting here is that scientists themselves can make these animations now, without needing the technical wizardry – and immense costs – of a Jurassic Park-style film.

“When I started working on fossil arachnids we were happy if we could manage a sketch of what they used to look like; now we can view them running across our computer screens.”

Running across your computer screens. And in your dreams, forever, if you’re arachnophobic.

[Source: University of Manchester]

 

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