Spiders with Long Tails Found in Ancient Amber

by Edgar Hayes February 7, 2018, 0:55
Spiders with Long Tails Found in Ancient Amber

The researchers have found four fossils of the spider entombed in chunks of amber from northern Myanmar which helped the scientists to establish a link between the modern spiders and an ancient group of arachnids that had a tail.

An "extraordinary" spider "cousin" trapped in amber for 100 million years is shaking up ideas about the origins of spiders.

Researchers have uncovered a new species of arachnid that lived during the mid-Cretaceous age, around 100 million years ago. The Chimerarachne shares an appendage with scorpions as well as similarities with modern spiders that include fangs and spinnerets.

The tail's function is unclear, but the researchers suspect it may have worked like a kind of antenna that the arachnid used to sense environmental cues.

The experts have named the newly discovered species Chimerarachne yingi, with the genus name coming from the fire-breathing chimera in Greek mythology that had the head of a lion, the body of a goat and the tail of a serpent.

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

It belongs to a group of arachnids (spiders, scorpions and the like) that were related to true spiders.

The dorsal view of entire Chimerarachne yingi specimen. Spider fossils go back even further to the Carboniferous, more than 300 million years ago.

An global team of researchers has been investigating an "extraordinary" 100 million year old fossil of a new species called Chimerarachne yingi found in Myanmar. The new animal resembles a spider with its fangs, four walking legs and silk-producing spinnerets at the rear.

Amber mined for centuries in Myanmar for jewelry is a treasure trove for understanding the evolution of spiders and their other arachnid relatives. Although their conclusions varied in terms of dating the ancient arachnids, they agreed that Silk-spinning spiders with and without tails co-existed for millennia.

"We haven't found them, but some of these forests aren't that well-studied, and it's only a tiny creature", he said. They only measured 2.5 millimeters in length with a tail longer than its body at 3 millimeters.

Other species of insects, including millipedes and modern spiders, were also found alongside the four chimaera fossils.

He believes that because of its remote habitat, tailed descendants of the spider may still be alive in Burma's rainforest.

They speculate that because it was trapped in amber, it was living on tree trunks: "For a spider to have become trapped, it may well have lived under bark or in the moss at the foot of a tree". It makes us wonder if these may still be alive today.

"Spinnerets are used to produce silk but for a whole host of reasons - to wrap eggs, to make burrows, to make sleeping hammocks or just to leave behind trails", says Selden. The fossil is extremely well preserved in Burmese amber, and dates back to the Cretaceous period, when the likes of Tyrannosaurus rex, Velociraptor and Triceratops walked the earth.

They look like these older creatures so it's rather a surprise to see them alongside spiders, he said of the insects found alongside the fossils.

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