Spider-boarding insect preserved in amber

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You’ve heard of extreme ironing. You’ve heard of extreme sitting. Both are fairly new inventions, but the craziest extreme sport of all has been around for at least 44 million years. It’s spider-boarding.

Spider-boarding is practiced by a group of insects called mantidflies. The larvae of most mantidfly species are fussy diners – they only eat the eggs of spiders. That seems like a dangerous enough strategy, for spiders are formidable hunters. But it gets crazier – some mantidflies find spider egg sacs by hitching a ride on the backs of adults.

Now, Michael Ohl from Berlin’s Museum of Natural History has found a beautiful example of this behaviour amidst the museum’s collections. It’s a 44 million year old piece of amber with a spider inside it. And there, latched onto its underside just as its modern relatives do, is a mantidfly larva. In the photos above, it’s facing to the right and you can clearly see the three legs on its right side.