Million-Year-Old Spider Fossils Found Trapped In Amber

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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.

This odd appendage, which is absent in modern spiders, can be found in vinegaroons, a group of nightmarish scorpion-looking creatures that lives today.

Scientists found a spider entombed in amber from northern Myanmar.

For starters, in addition to fairly standard spider traits such as fangs and multi-segmented spinnerets that produce silk, there's that tail.

Scientists have discovered the fossilised remains of a previously unknown species of arachnid boasting a scorpion-like tail even longer than its body. Their body length is around 2.5 millimeters (0.1 inches) and their tail size is 3 millimeters (0.2 inches) which is longer than the body.

At 3mm, the tail extends beyond the newly christened Chimerarachne yingi's 2.5mm body and the global scientists behind its discovery say it links today's spiders with those that lived before dinosaurs.

"Chimerarachne fills the gap between Palaeozoic arachnids with tails known from rocks (uraraneids) and true spiders, and the fact the new fossils have been wonderfully preserved in Burmese amber has allowed an unmatched detail of study", he said. On the basis of the creature's tail, they conclude that it belongs to the Uraraneida, a group of spider relatives that was thought to have gone extinct around 275 million years ago.

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Another view of the holotype of C. yingi as it was preserved in amber for 100 million years...coincidentally the same number of nightmares today's announcement will foster.

Despite its appearance the team says Chimerarachne is not a direct ancestor of modern day spiders.

"In the last few years, this kind of amber has become much more available and because of its age - it's a hundred million years old or older - it lets us see really far back into the past", he said. Researchers do not entirely agree on how the creepy crawly should be classified, however.

"These things appear to be essentially spiders with tails!"

The finding is described in a paper appearing in Nature Ecology & Evolution by an worldwide team including Paul Selden of the Paleontological Institute and Department of Geology at the University of Kansas and colleagues from China, Germany, Virginia and the United Kingdom. "Animals that have a long whippy tail tend to have it for sensory purposes", said Selden. The ancient arachnids are usually described as "chimeras" which is the name of a hybrid beast popular in Greek mythology. It has "spinnerets" located at its read end through which it once produced silk.

"We don't know if it wove webs", said the KU researcher.

Gonzalo Giribet, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University who worked on Huang's team, said the new discovery might also shake up the arachnid family tree. The scientists suspect that the spiders might have lived with the tailed spiders of arachnids side by side for about 200 million years side-by-side. It makes us wonder if these may still be alive today.

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