The Spider and the Fly


Here we have an exceptionally clear piece of Baltic Amber, with two different insect inclusions, a spider inclusion, and some miscellaneous plant matter. It’s between 35 and 55 million years old, these species probably long since went extinct. Serves ’em right for not being able to outrun an oozing tree.

35-55 million year old Baltic Amber with multiple inclusions

Click me for the high resolution version.

In the center, there’s a beautiful spider. It’s perfectly clear around it, so you can view it from nearly all angles. If you click on the picture, you can view it at much higher resolution. If you zoom in, you can even see one of the spiders fangs! Two of the legs on the left side of the body aren’t visible, but they’re still there. They’re just tucked close to/under the body, so you can’t see them from this angle. I’d like to think he was lickin’ his chops, getting ready to chow down on the fly that’s right in front of him. It’s probably not true, but whatever. It’s my spider, it’s doing what I say, if it knows what’s good for it.

Just below, and to the left of the spider, there’s a pretty clear fly of some sort. The wings are extended and their support structures are distinct. The body is easily distinguished, you can even see some features inside its body. Wow. There’s a little bit of what looks like fracturing around the fly, which disturbs it somewhat, but there’s another zoom from a different angle that shows it much better. The cracks actually aren’t necessarily even cracks. They’re more likely to be a result of different layers of resin being laid down. One might have been enough to trap the fly halfway, then another flow came by a bit later and covered it up. Small pockets of air may get trapped, or if the earlier layer has already dried, the two might not bond together very well. The bug might outgass a little, and create a bubble around it. It looks like a crack, but it’s really just a separation of the layers. The larger crack on the edge though, that’s probably an actual crack. The concentric circles are a dead giveaway signalling a fracture, I think.

The plant matter seems to be just miscellaneous fragments of leaves/dirt/bark. The large mass of it seems to be too coarsely fibrous to be leaves. I’m gonna say bits of tree bark and dirt. Way off to the right, under another crack is a wee little flea. At least, that’s what I’m calling it. If you know differently, please comment and correct me. You can’t see it very well under the crack, and I tried taking a picture of it from the other side, but the pictures just don’t come out well. It’s easier to see under magnification when you can wiggle it around a little to get the right angle. You can sorta see it in the top picture though. In the other pictures it was just a dark blob.

A fly preserved in 35-55 million year old Baltic Amber

A fly preserved in 35-55 million year old Baltic Amber

Zooming closely on the fly you can clearly identify the eye, the antennae, all of the legs, the wings, the body, and even the shadow from the guts inside. If those separations weren’t there, this would be a damned perfect specimen. Oh well. I still got a good deal on this piece, considering the overall excellent clarity, the multiple quality inclusions of different species, and an excellent spider with bared fang who I want to believe was on his way to eat the other two. He was so close! If only that giant blob of tree resin hadn’t entombed him, and his meal at the last second. Or, more likely, they probably just all got stuck there, perhaps at different times. That’s not nearly as entertaining a story though. Surely, you agree?

A 35-55 million year old spider preserved in Baltic Amber

A 35-55 million year old spider preserved in Baltic Amber

To make it easier to see the fang, I backlit the amber and took another picture, so it would be in shadow. That’s a fang alright, no question. Awesome. I didn’t even know that was there until I started taking pictures for this post.

I’m gonna see if I can take this to some friends and get some 129381029451 megapixel pictures with their fancy $5000 cameras. Then I can take it to someone and have the species identified, or named after me, whichever is appropriate.

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11 thoughts on “The Spider and the Fly

  1. Another Mo follower who does what she is told. And while spiders while living sqeeb me out and scare me witless, the spider trapped in amber apparently facinates me instead. I spent a long time staring at his fangs. Who knew?

    • See? They’re not so scary afterall, are they? Even all blown up in tremendous detail, with bared fangs that are actually much too tiny to even see. This spider would be no threat to you, either living, or dead, much like most other spiders. The spider hasn’t changed, what changed is your point of view. Behind the amber, or in front of it, it’s the same spider, and it’s no more, or less of a threat.

      People get over phobias by confronting them. In the process, they learn something about the object of their fear, and about themselves. The fear doesn’t come from the spider, it comes from your head. It’s helpful at first for the object of fear to be safely ensconced in a bubble of plastic. Perhaps it provides enough detachment that you feel safe enough to inspect it and learn something about it.

      People who conquer their fears are people who face them, rather than leap onto a chair to avoid them. You are to be commended for facing your fear, rather than fleeing from it. I hereby award you one(1) Gold Star.

      Bugs are such a fascinating phobia, since they’re absolutely *everywhere*. It’s one thing to have a quaint, obscure phobia that doesn’t come up often, but bugs are unavoidable. I can’t imagine what it must be like to live in fear of something that you can’t escape.

  2. Mo didn’t warn us some of this would be gross, though. I am having supper and do not want to contemplate bugs and hip replacements! Ugh! Mo got me here but the bugs have me moving it along real quick…

    • For best results, The Random Treasures of an Insigificant Nobody is best experienced while wasting time at work, or post-supper. We here at tRToaIN value your patronage, and regret any discomfort you may have experienced as a result.

      Persons of a squeamish nature may find objects such as babylonian coins, or ancient roman keyrings to be more in line with their interests. There’s even an Amish Butterchurn. I intend to be genre neutral for the most part. My goal is simply to collect things that are fascinating in some way. As a consequence, how they go with dinner is rarely a significant consideration.

  3. I make jewelry and would love to come into possession of such a thing; a focal piece like this would serve as such a conversation starter!

    • You can get similar things from any respectable amber dealer. They’re not terribly cheap though. A superbly clear piece can be quite a bit more expensive. You also have to be careful to make sure you’re getting real baltic amber. Copal, which is basically unfossilized amber is often passed off as genuine, despite it being vastly cheaper. One of the ways to tell the difference is to press your fingernail into it. Copal will dent a little, amber won’t.

      Most inclusions tend to be very small insects, since larger things tend to not get stuck in the first place, so you really have to look up close to see what it is. From arms length, it would look like a speck inside some purty amber. Up close, it’s neat as hell.

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