Unusual ancient spider with tail discovered by scientists in Myanmar

Alan Olson
February 7, 2018

Fossil hunters found the extraordinary creatures suspended in lumps of amber that formed 100m years ago in what is now Myanmar.

The C. yingi amber fossils are exquisitely preserved, allowing two different teams of researchers to identify the creature's morphological features in striking details.

Amber from Myanmar has been mined for thousands of years and traded with China as jewellery.

In addition to the tail and the fangs, this new spider has male pedipalps, four walking legs, and silk-producing spinnerets at the rear.

Scientists have discovered the fossilised remains of a previously unknown species of arachnid boasting a scorpion-like tail even longer than its body.

These are tiny arachnids, measured about 2.5 millimeters body length, excluding the almost 3-millimeter-long tail. A new, weird 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. Numerous other often-spectacular Cretaceous amber finds coming out of Southeast Asia these days (see, for example, the tick preserved clinging to a dinosaur feather or 2016's entire feathered dinosaur tail) have taken a similar route to scientific notice.

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But from the point of view of Gonzalo Giridet's team at Harvard University, who conducted the other study, Chimerarachne yingi would be a Uraraneida itself and would have gotten extinct without leaving descendants.

About 100 million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, four, tiny spider-like creatures became trapped in amber. Scientists believe that the ancient species may resolve many loose ends in arachnid evolution. "These specimens became available a year ago to Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology". Both researchers looked at the perfectly preserved animals and came to the same conclusion: This was an entirely new kind of animal. Each spider was about 3mm long with a tail measuring up to 5mm.

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

Diying Huang, the researcher behind the second paper, noted that the arachnid had spinnerets but it may not have woven webs like spiders do. "These things appear to be essentially spiders with tails!" says Jason Bond, an evolutionary biologist at Auburn University in Alabama who was not involved with the work.

Named Chimerarachne yingi after the Chimera of Greek mythology-a lion, goat and serpent hybrid-the creature will help scientists understand the origin of these much-feared critters.

This reconstruction shows how this amber fossil looks like it's part scorpion and part spider. This means that the Chimerarachne Yingi spiders lived alongside large herbivores like the Iguanodon and hadrosaurs, and even larger predators like the Tyrannosaurus rex. The newly discovered tailed spider fossil might fill the gap Palaeozoic arachnids with tails known from rocks (uraraneids) and the original spiders, as per the researchers. It makes us wonder if these may still be alive today.

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