The spider, named Nephila jurassica, was discovered buried in ancient volcanic ash in Inner Mongolia, China.
Tufts of hairlike fibers seen on its legs showed this 165-million-year-old arachnid to be the oldest known species of the largest web-weaving spiders alive today the golden orb-weavers,
or Nephila, which are big enough to catch birds and bats, and use silk that shines like gold in the sunlight.

The fossil was about as large as its modern relatives, with a body one inch (2.5 centimeters) wide and legs that reach up to 2.5 inches (6.3 cm) long.
Golden orb-weavers nowadays are mainly tropical creatures,
so the ancient environment of Nephila jurassica probably was similarly lush. [Image of fossil spider]