Fossils In Amber May Provide Link Between Ancient Arachnids And Modern Spiders

Herbert Rhodes
February 7, 2018

An worldwide team of researchers has been investigating an "extraordinary" 100 million year old fossil of a new species called Chimerarachne yingi found in Myanmar. The spider fossils were found trapped in amber.

Remarkably, the amber in which the four known examples of C. yingi were discovered wasn't yanked out of the ground by the scientists themselves.

The animal has clear spider's features (eg, organs in the back to create silky tissue), teeth, four legs, but also a long tail, which no other spider has.

A tiny prehistoric species of spider with a tail has been found preserved in amber in Myanmar and dates back 100 million years.

If you already thought spiders were terrifying to look at, wait till you hear about a newly-discovered species of arachnid that had a long tail (as well as eight legs).

Scientists have discovered a spider from 100 million years ago that had a tail, making it a potent nightmare fuel when its fangs and webbing are added to the mix. Numerous other often-spectacular Cretaceous amber finds coming out of Southeast Asia these days (see, for example, the tick preserved clinging to a dinosaur feather or 2016's entire feathered dinosaur tail) have taken a similar route to scientific notice. "Our new fossil most likely represents the earliest branch of spiders, and implies that there was a lineage of tailed spiders that presumably originated in the Paleozoic (the geological era that ended 251 million years ago) and survived at least into the Cretaceous of Southeast Asia".

It belongs to a group of arachnids (spiders, scorpions and the like) that were related to true spiders. These specimens became available a year ago to Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology, he added.

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Its tail was longer that its body and was used as a sensory device to seek out prey or escape predators.

The extraordinary finding is described in Nature Ecology & Evolution by an global team which included earth scientist Dr Russell Garwood of Manchester University. The tail lends it an exotic look that spider-fearing folk will likely find unsettling.

Scientists have named it Chimerarachne yingi, after the Greek mythological Chimera, a hybrid creature composed of the parts of more than one animal. But it's hard to know what the chimera spider's daily life was like.

Researchers think the spiders lived among the trees due to their amber coffins.

The dorsal view of entire Chimerarachne yingi specimen.

But the team describing the holotype of C. yingi places it within the arachnid family tree as an early true spider, citing the presence of both those well developed spinnerets and modified male pedipalps which assist with sperm transfer. Selden says the spider's remote habitat allows for the possibility that tailed descendants may still be alive in Myanmar's backcountry today.

Commenting on the research, Dr Ricardo Perez-De-La Fuente, of the Oxford Museum of Natural History, said the "amazing fossils" will be important in deciphering the puzzle of the evolution of spiders and allied groups. It makes us wonder if these may still be alive today.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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