'Remarkable' Fossil of Tailed Arachnid Shakes Up Origin Theory of Spiders


A new, freakish spider-like creature has just been discovered in Southeast Asia, having been encased in amber during the Cretaceous period some 100 million years ago, and it might be more terrifying than any of the creepy-crawlies lurking in the dark corners of your basement. 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.

The Cretaceous-era critter has been dubbed Chimerarachne yingi, borrowing its name from the Chimera, a mythological creature composed of the parts of several different animals.

The two studies were published the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Scientists have been able to fix another piece of the jigsaw in arachnid evolution because four Chimerarachne became trapped in forest resin millions of years ago, turning into to semi precious amber.

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.

"Any sort of flagelliform appendage tends to be like an antenna", the KU researcher said.

No living spider now on record has a tail, but this specimen has all the hallmarks of being a spider - fangs, pedipalps and silk-producing spinnerets at its rear.

"Suddenly, here was something that formed a missing link between our ancient prototypes and the living spiders", Selden said.

Although this particular fossil was from the mid-Cretaceous age (around 100 million years ago) the team think the animal could still be alive today.

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One of the team members, Professor Paul Selden of the Paleontological Institute and Department of Geology at the University of Kansas, explained how the highly-desired substance helped change the thinking of arachnid development.

Scientists don't think these critters would have used webs like spiders do today and speculate that they could have used their silk for anything between making sleeping hammocks to leaving trails.

According to Seldon, [the new fossils] are like the missing link from older animals and modern spiders.

The specimens had spinnerets, or silk-spinning organs, jutting from the bottom of their abdomens - a feature they share with modern-day spiders. "Egg-wrapping is a vital function for spider silk, as well as laying a trail to find its way back home". These all evolved before spiders made it up into the air and made insect traps.

"However, like all spiders it would have been a carnivore and would have eaten insects, I imagine", Seldon said.

If you are not a fan of spiders, you may not like the creepy little arachnid scientists found entombed in chunks of amber from northern Myanmar.

The telson is something we see it today in scorpions - but it has never been known before in a spider.

"We haven't found them", he says in the University of Kansas statement, "but some of these forests aren't that well-studied, and it's only a tiny creature".

Amber can give us an unprecedented view into prehistoric life, preserving softer elements that regular fossilization just can't.