Million Year Old Spider With A Tail Found in Ancient Amber

Gwen Vasquez
February 7, 2018

There are more than 47,000 known species of living spiders around the world - but none resemble the 100-million-year-old arachnid creature recently found encased in amber in Myanmar. He added: "Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the new fossils is the fact that more than 200 million years after spiders originated, close relatives - quite unlike arachnids alive today - were still living alongside true spiders".

The proto-spider would have looked similar to spiders in the modern Liphistiidae family, which today live in Southeast Asia, China, and Japan. Researchers think C. yingi used its appendage to sense its environment.

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.

The specimen, which was preserved in amber from Myanmar and closely resembles modern spiders, has a whip-like tail that is longer than its body, similar to a scorpion's.

Arachnids not only include spiders, but also scorpions, mites and ticks. According to the researchers, it is even possible that some of this species queens are still present in the Myanmar forests.

The dorsal view of entire Chimerarachne yingi specimen. A pair of papers out today detail how this 100-million-year-old discovery, preserved in amber, fits into the spider evolution story...and the ways it doesn't.

The unusual creature shares certain characteristics with modern spiders - including fangs, four walking legs and silk-producing organs at its rear - however, it also has a long tail, or flagellum - a feature that living spiders lack.

Its emergence has a new species comes courtesy of studies of prehistoric amber samples from Myanmar (formerly Burma) and studied by an global team, including experts from the United Kingdom.

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Regardless of where the critters lie on our fickle evolutionary tables, modern spiders apparently didn't need these hairy tails to become the immensely widespread creatures we know them as. If they live in burrows and leave, they leave a trail so they can find their way back.

"Maybe the tail originally had a sensory function; it is covered in short hairs, but when spiders changed to lifestyle like being sit-and-wait predators, the tail was no longer really needed and became lost", Bo Wang was quoted by The Guardian.

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

"It's kind of a missing link", said Paul Selden, director of the Institute of Paleontology at the University of Kansas and co-author of the study, in an interview. It makes us wonder if these may still be alive today.

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

Professor Selden said: "We can only speculate that, because it was trapped in amber, we assume it was living on or around tree trunks". Those areas aren't very well studied, and since the creature is too tiny, it could easily go unspotted.

Paleontologist Bo Wang, from Chinese Academy of Science, stated that the new fossil will act as a key to know about the origin of the spider.

Other reports by LeisureTravelAid

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