Spiders Had Tails 100 Million Years Ago, Fossil Shows

Posted February 07, 2018

"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", Wang added. At the origins of the identification of this new spider species are four primitive spider fossils, captured in amber 100 million years ago on the territory of actual Myanmar.

The new animal resembles a spider in having fangs, male pedipalps, four walking legs and silk-producing spinnerets but also bears a long flagellum or tail.

An global team involving University of Kansas paleontologist Paul Selden studied the mid-Cretaceous critter, which is trapped in a piece of amber from Myanmar.

The creatures are less than a quarter-inch long (5.5 millimeters) including their tails, which account for half that length.

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.

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

The team from the University of Kansas had previously predicted the existence of these creatures, but placed then in older periods around 380 million years ago.

Some 100 million years later, blocks of amber containing their fossilized forms wound up on the desks of two scientists in China.

The creature, which has been named Chimerarachne yingi, boasts a odd mix of features that we see on modern-day arachnids. This latest collection of finds ended up with two different research groups at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology. And it's not known what the tail would have been used for or if the spider was venomous.

As a result, the species has been named Chimerarachne in reference to the Chimera - a monstrous fire-breathing creature from Greek mythology which was composed of limbs from various animals. But at some stage modern spiders ditched the tail.

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Commenting on the research, Dr Ricardo Perez-De-La Fuente, of the Oxford Museum of Natural History, said the "amazing fossils" will be important in deciphering the puzzle of the evolution of spiders and allied groups.

He said: "Chimerarachne could be considered as a spider". The tail lends it an exotic look that spider-fearing folk will likely find unsettling.

No living species of spider has a tail but Mr Selden said the arachnid's remote habitat made it possible that tailed descendants may still be alive in Myanmar's backcountry to this day.

The researchers documented their findings in two separate papers and hope that their discovery would help in their attempt to decipher the evolution of arachnids. Some argue that spinnerets were the key innovation that allowed spiders to become so successful; there are almost 50,000 known spider species alive today.

The dorsal view of entire Chimerarachne yingi specimen.

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