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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fossil range: Devonian
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Chelicerata
Class: Arachnida
Order: Uraraneida
Genus: Attercopus
Binomial name
Attercopus fimbriungus
(Shear et al., 1987)

Previously interpreted as the world's oldest spider, Attercopus belongs to an extinct order of arachnids named Uraraneida;[1] thought to be close to the origins of spiders. Attercopus can be envisaged as a spider-like animal able to produce silk, but which lacked true spinnerets and retained a segmented abdomen bearing a flagellum-like tail resembling that of a whip scorpion.

This important fossil from the Early Devonian (about 390 million years) of Gilboa, New York State, was originally described as a member of the extinct order Trigonotarbida and named Gelasinotarbus? fimbriunguis.[2] It was later assigned to a new genus Attercopus[3] and reinterpreted as the oldest, and most primitive, example of a true spider (Araneae). This hypothesis was based on the supposed presence of unique spider features such as silk-producing spinnerets and the opening of a venom gland on the fang of the chelicera.

Further study - based on new fossils from a comparable Devonian locality called South Mountain - and comparison with other material from the Permian of Russia indicates that Attercopus does not actually have spinnerets. The specimen which looked like a tubular spinneret[4] is actually a folded sheet of cuticle. It would, however, have produced silk from a series of silk gland openings, or spigots, located across plates on the underside of the abdomen.

It seems unlikely that Attercopus spun webs, but it may have used its silk to wrap eggs, lay draglines or construct burrow walls. The opening for the venom gland is also a misinterpretation. A segmented tail, or flagellum, also belonged to this animal. Attercopus fimbriunguis is not a spider, but it is probably close to the type of animals which did give rise to modern spiders today.

Its name is taken from the English dialect word "attercop" (= "spider"), which came from Anglo-Saxon ator-copp = "poison-head".


  1. ^ Selden, P. A., Shear, W. A. & Sutton, M. D. 2008. Fossil evidence for the origin of spider spinnerets, and a proposed arachnid order. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 105: 20781-20785 doi:10.1073/pnas.0809174106.
  2. ^ Shear, W. A., Selden, P. A., Rolfe, W.D.I., Bonamo, P. M. & Grierson, J. D. 1987. New terrestrial arachnids from the Devonian of Gilboa, New York. American Museum Novitates, 2901: 1–74
  3. ^ Selden, P. A., Shear, W. A. & Bonamo, P. M. 1991. A spider and other arachnids from the Devonian of New York, and reinterpretations of Devonian Araneae. Palaeontology, 34: 241–281.
  4. ^ Shear, W. A., Palmer, J. M., Coddington, J. A. & Bonamo, P. M. 1989. A Devonian spinneret: early evidence of spiders and silk use. Science, 246: 479-481 doi: 10.1126/science.246.4929.479.


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies


Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Protostomia
Cladus: Ecdysozoa
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Chelicerata
Classis: Arachnida
Ordo: †Uraraneida
Genus: Attercopus
Species: A. fimbriunguis


Attercopus Selden & Shear in Selden, Shear & Bonamo, 1991

Type species: Attercopus fimbriunguis (Shear, Selden & Rolfe, 1987)


  • Selden, P. A., W. A. Shear & P. M. Bonamo. 1991. A spider and other arachnids from the Devonian of New York, and reinterpretations of Devonian Araneae. Palaeontology 34: 241-281. PDF [256]


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