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07 February 2018, 01:26 | Brenda Erickson
Artist's impression of Chimerarachne yingi
"It was a pretty good tropical rainforest, and there are a great many other arachnids we know were there, particularly spiders, that are very similar to the ones you find today in the southeast Asian rainforest". The spider fossils were found trapped in amber.
Amber mined for centuries in Myanmar for jewelry is a treasure trove for understanding the evolution of spiders and their other arachnid relatives. The two groups didn't know they were working on such similar fossils until it came time to publish their findings, says Paul Selden, director of The Paleontological Institute at the University of Kansas and a co-author of one of today's studies. Their bodies are close to one-tenth of an inch long but their tails more than double their length.
Scientists have discovered a groundbreaking arachnid species that lived millions of years ago - and it had a tail. But experts disagree about how these fossils relate to modern-day spiders, because there's something odd about their crumpled corpses: all four of them have tails.
Another view of the holotype of C. yingi as it was preserved in amber for 100 million years...coincidentally the same number of nightmares today's announcement will foster.
The ancient arachnid bears a resemblance to modern spiders. These specimens became available past year to Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology, he added.
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For now, researchers disagree on the exact placement of the part-spider, part-scorpion critter. The oldest-known true spiders lived about 315 millions year ago.
The primitive creepy crawly is so scary it has been named after a monster from Greek mythology that was made of the parts of more than one creature.
Like a Griffin or a Jackalope, the spider looks like it had a tail from another creature attached to it.
Prof Selden said: "There's been a lot of amber being produced from northern Myanmar and its interest stepped up about 10 years ago when it was discovered this amber was mid-Cretaceous".
The finding has been described in a paper appearing in Nature Ecology and Evolution by an global team, including Paul Selden of the Paleontological Institute and Department of Geology at the University of Kansas.
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"Taken together, Chimerarachne has a unique body plan among the arachnids and raises important questions about what an early spider looked like, and how the spinnerets and pedipalp organ may have evolved".
But the team describing the holotype of C. yingi places it within the arachnid family tree as an early true spider, citing the presence of both those well developed spinnerets and modified male pedipalps which assist with sperm transfer.
"When you find the missing link, you just create two new gaps where previously, there was one".
Even though these fossils are millions of years old, scientists say that it's possible that tailed descendants of the spiders are still alive in the backcountry of Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma. 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.
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