I am a Visiting Scientist in the Preziosi lab in the Evolution research group of the Faculty of Life Sciences. I completed an undergraduate degree in Zoology (1994) and a Ph.D. in fossil amber spider palaeobiology (1999), both at the University of Manchester. After my Ph.D. I worked as Assistant Keeper of Zoology at Manchester Museum for 18 months, before embarking on a post-doc in the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences (University of Manchester) studying fossil spiders. Following completion of this post-doc I have retained an honorary research status at the University of Manchester, most recently in the Faculty of Life Sciences. I have extensive experience of fieldwork in many different countries, including the tropics and have taught on residential ecology field courses for the past 15 years.



My research interests focus on extant and fossil spiders. They cover a broad spectrum taxonomically, geographically, geologically and theoretically. The includes: extant and fossil spider taxonomy and systematics; evolutionary history of spiders; the qualitative and quantitative use of data in testing hypotheses of palaeoecology and palaeogeography; preservation bias of organisms preserved in amber; reconstruction of fossil ecosystems; the effects of mass extinctions on terrestrial invertebrate faunas; the timing of the radiations of the major extant spider families; the completeness versus the adequacy of the spider fossil record; predator–prey co-evolutionary processes; and the origins and current biodiversity of the Greater Antillean spider fauna. I am particularly interested in the application of amber derived data in quantitative palaeobiological studies of broad interest. Recent highlights include demonstrating that amber is biased to preserving active, trunk-dwelling faunas (Paleobiology 2002), that spiders survived the end-Cretaceous mass extinction event (Evolution 2003), that spiders co-radiated alongside their insect prey over geological time (Trans. R. Soc. Edinburgh, Earth Sci. 2004), that extant and fossil Hispaniolan spider assemblages are directly comparable (Palaeo3 2005) and have South American origins (Book: Dominican Amber Spiders, 2008), that different amber faunas retain ecological information and are directly comparable in this respect (Royal Society, Biology Letters 2006), description of the oldest orb-weaving spider (Royal Society, Biology Letters 2006), the novel application of VHR computed tomography to amber inclusions (Zootaxa 2007) and a full review of the amber and non-amber spider fossil record (Biological Reviews in press). I am also interested in extant faunas. My recent research has focused on the biodiversity of The Gambia, West Africa.




Penney, D. (in press) A new spider family record for Hispaniola—a new species of Plectreurys (Araneae: Plectreuridae) in Miocene Dominican amber. Zootaxa

Penney, D. (2009) Field Guide to Wildlife of The Gambia, 120 pp. Siri Scientific Press, Manchester.

Penney, D. (2009) Common Spiders and Other Arachnids of The Gambia, West Africa, 80 pp. Siri Scientific Press, Manchester.

Penney, D., Marusik, Y., Wheater, C.P. & Langan, A.M. (2009). First Gambian Ricinulei and the northernmost African record for the order (Arachnida: Ricinulei: Ricinioididae). Zootaxa, 2021, 66–68.

Dunlop, J.A., Penney, D. & Jekel, D. 2009. A summary list of fossil spiders. 80 pp. in Platnick, N.I. 2009. The world spider catalog, version 9.0. American Museum of Natural History, online at http://research.amnh.org/entomology/spiders/catalog/index.html

Saupe, E.E., Selden, P.A. & Penney, D. (in press). First fossil Molinaranea (Araneae: Araneidae), from Middle Miocene Dominican amber, with a phylogenic and paleobiogeographic analysis of the genus. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

Selden, P.A. & Penney, D. (in press) Fossil spiders. Biological Reviews.


Penney, D. (2008) Dominican Amber Spiders: a comparative palaeontological-neontological approach to identification, faunistics, ecology and biogeography, 178 pp. Siri Scientific Press, Manchester.

Penney, D. (2008) Possible anti-predator function for the stabilimentum in a West African (Bijilo Forest, The Gambia) Cyclosa (Araneae, Araneidae). Journal of Afrotropical Zoology, 4, 143–146.

Dunlop, J.A., Penney, D., Tetlie, O.E. & Anderson, L.I. (2008) How many species of fossil arachnid are there? Journal of Arachnology 36, 267–272.


Penney, D. & Selden, P.A. (2007) Fossils explained: Spinning with the dinosaurs: the fossil record of spiders. Geology Today 23, 231–237.

Penney, D., Dierick, M., Cnudde, V., Masschaele, B., Vlasssenbroeck, J., Van Hoorebeke, L. & Jacobs, P. (2007) First fossil Micropholcommatidae (Araneae), imaged in Eocene Paris amber using X-Ray Computed Tomography. Zootaxa 1623, 47–53.

Jepson, J.E. & Penney, D. (2007) Neuropteran (Insecta) palaeodiversity with predictions for the Cretaceous fauna of the Wealden. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology, 248, 109–118.


Penney, D. (2006) Fossils in amber: unlocking the secrets of the past. Biologist 53, 247–251.

Penney, D. & Langan, A.M. (2006) Comparing amber fossils across the Cenozoic. Biology Letters 2, 266–270. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2006.0442

Penney, D. & Ortuño, V.M. (2006) Oldest true orb-weaving spider (Araneae: Araneidae). Biology Letters 2, 447–450. published online in June. R33.

Penney, D. & Selden, P.A. (2006) Assembling the Tree of Life—Phylogeny of Spiders: a review of the strictly fossil spider families. Acta Zoologica Bulgarica, supplement 1, 25–39.


Penney, D. (2005) First fossil Filistatidae: A new species of Misionella in Miocene amber from the Dominican Republic. Journal of Arachnology 33, 93–100.

Penney, D. (2005) Fossil blood droplets in Miocene Dominican amber yield clues to speed and direction of resin secretion. Palaeontology 48, 925–927.

Penney, D. (2005) Importance of Dominican Republic Amber for determining taxonomic bias of fossil resin preservation—A case study of spiders. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 223, 1–8.


Logunov, D.V. & Penney, D. (eds) (2004) European Arachnology 2003. Proceedings of the 21st European Colloquium of Arachnology (St. Petersburg, Russia, August 2003). KMK Scientific Press, Moscow, 374 pp.

Penney, D. (2004) Does the fossil record of spiders track that of their principal prey, the insects? Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Earth Sciences 94, 275–281.

Platnick, N.I. & Penney, D. (2004) A revision of the widespread spider genus Zimiris (Araneae, Prodidomidae). American Museum Novitates 3450, 1–12.


Penney, D. (2003) A new deinopoid spider from Cretaceous Lebanese amber. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 48, 569–574.

Penney, D., Wheater, C.P. & Selden, P.A. (2003) Resistance of spiders to Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction events. Evolution 57, 2599–2607.

Selden, P.A. & Penney, D. (2003) Lower Cretaceous spiders (Arthropoda, Arachnida, Araneae) from Spain. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie Montashefte Stuttgart 2003, 175–192.


Penney, D. (2002) Spiders in Upper Cretaceous amber from New Jersey (Arthropoda, Araneae). Palaeontology 45, 709–724.

Penney, D. (2002) Paleoecology of Dominican amber preservation—spider (Araneae) inclusions demonstrate a bias for active, trunk-dwelling faunas. Paleobiology 28, 389–398.

Penney, D. & Perez-Gelabert, D.E. (2002) Comparison of the Recent and Miocene Hispaniolan spider faunas. Revista Iberica de Aracnologia 6, 203–223.

Penney, D. & Selden, P.A. (2002) The oldest linyphiid spider, in Lower Cretaceous Lebanese amber (Araneae, Linyphiidae, Linyphiinae). Journal of Arachnology 30, 487–493.


Penney, D. (2001) Advances in the taxonomy of spiders in Miocene amber from the Dominican Republic (Arthropoda, Araneae). Palaeontology 44, 987–1009.


Penney, D. (2000) Miocene spiders in Dominican amber (Oonopidae, Mysmenidae). Palaeontology 43, 343–357.