Meet Your New Nightmare: Ancient Spider With A Tail Preserved in Amber

Meet Your New Nightmare: Ancient Spider With A Tail Preserved in Amber

Meet Your New Nightmare: Ancient Spider With A Tail Preserved in Amber

"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". "These are gorgeous creatures and would probably never harm a human, like 99.99% of the spiders", he said.

Amber can give us an unprecedented view into prehistoric life, preserving softer elements that regular fossilization just can't. Each spider was about 3mm long with a tail measuring up to 5mm. Credit: University of Kansas.

A BRAND new species of arachnid that looks like a spider with a tail has been discovered in Myanmar.

Researchers think the spiders lived among the trees due to their amber coffins. What's unbelievable is that the amber process preserves parts that wouldn't be conserved through regular fossilization.

Scientists found a spider entombed in amber from northern Myanmar. But it wasn't until amber was bought over to China, by dealers selling it to research institutions, that they actually came across this hard evidence. These specimens became available previous year to Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology, he added.

It had eight legs and fangs, typical of most modern spiders, and measured about 2.5 millimeters long, with a tail extending to 3 millimeters long - something that no modern spider is equipped with.

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Due to this mix of features, the two research groups differ slightly over where C. yingi fits in the spider family tree. The Chimerarachne shares an appendage with scorpions as well as similarities with modern spiders that include fangs and spinnerets. Another distinctive feature is that uraraneids had plates on their bellies instead of the squishy abdomens seen in spiders. "Maybe the tail originally had a sensory function; it is covered in short hairs, but when spiders changed to lifestyles like being sit-and-wait predators, the tail was no longer really needed and became lost", he said.

The tail could have allowed for environmental detection, according to Paul Selden, of the Institute of Paleontology and the Department of Geology of the University of Kansas, co-author of one of the studies. Those much older animals formed the basis of a new arachnid order, the Uraraneida, which would lead the way to modern spiders. Scientists may have just discovered your worst nightmare.

The first Uraraneida fossil was discovered in NY state in the U.S. in 1987 and was initially misidentified as a spider.

"We have known for a decade or so that spiders evolved from arachnids that had tails, more than 315 million years ago", said Dr Russell Garwood of The University of Manchester, a co-researcher on the study.

Professor Selden said it was not inconceivable that the chimaera could even still be alive today. Those areas aren't very well studied, and since the creature is too tiny, it could easily go unspotted.

The finding has been described in a paper appearing in Nature Ecology and Evolution by an worldwide team, including Paul Selden of the Paleontological Institute and Department of Geology at the University of Kansas.

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