410 million years ago, a proto-spider was roaming the Earth, waiting to evolve into the creepy, 8-legged creatures that make our skin scrawl today. This arachnid, called a trigonotarbid, ranged from a few millimeters to a few centimeters in length, and was believed to be have a larger population than the modern spider. Scientists have, in a way, brought the trigonotarbid back to life, thanks to digital imaging technology typically used by artists.
Researchers from The University of Manchester and the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin recently examined an excellently-preserved trigonotarbid fossil from Scotland under a microscope and were able to determine the organism's range of motion in its limbs. After comparing this ancestor to modern day spiders, the team created a video using Blender that hypothesized the kinetic behavior of the trigonotarbid. They published their findings in a special issue of the Journal of Paleontology today.
Co-author Jason Dunlop, a curator at the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, explained that scientists already understood what the species looked like, but noted this new study took things a step further. "For me, what's really exciting here is that scientists themselves can make these animations now, without the needing the technical wizardry—and immense costs—of a Jurassic Park-style film."
Dunlop added, "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."
We're excited to see a familiar tool from the digital art world like Blender be applied to a very different practice. As long as the extinct creatures stay on our screens, and not our laps, we hope to see paleontologists use Blender for more resurrection-like simulations.
Image by Jason Dunlop via