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 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.
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 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