Unusual ancient spider with tail discovered by scientists in Myanmar

07 February, 2018, 01:57 | Author: Grady Montgomery
  • Arachnophobes take heed this ancient spider had a whip-like tail

Researchers do not entirely agree on how the creepy crawly should be classified, however.

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. Both scorpions and this fossilized bug are part of an arachnid group related to true spiders.

Among the four fossils, two of them were examined by Gonzalo Giribet at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Diying Huang at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Nanjing and their colleagues. The study revealed along with the spinneret, they had a whip-like tail.

The fossils are now so well preserved that, one can easily observe the head, fangs, male pedipalps, their legs and spinner rest at their back. Their hindquarters bear spinnerets, the same organs from which living species spin their silken webs. 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. That left unanswered many questions about when spinnerets and other spider traits first evolved.

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.

The new specimen of spiders is a missing link between the ancient Uraraneida order, which resemble spiders but have tails and no silk-making spinnerets.


He said: "Chimerarachne could be considered as a spider". The spider fossils were found trapped in amber.

Palaeontologist Professor Paul Selden, of Kansas University, said: "We can only speculate that, because it was trapped in amber, we assume it was living on or around tree trunks".

"It seems to be an intermediate form", Selden said - midway between the spinneret-less A. fimbriunguis and the spiders of today.

Northern Myanmar has become something of a hotbed for palaeontology as much of the amber coming from there into China is being sold by merchants to researchers, including this latest sample. 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. Like today's horseshoe crabs and ginkgo trees, it was a holdover from an earlier period in evolutionary history.

The new species was discovered in the jungles of Myanmar, which yields almost 10 tonnes of amber every year.

And what is even more incredible, says Bond, is that the amber is only 100 million years old. The ancient arachnids are described as "chimeras" after the hybrid beast of Greek mythology, because they have a curious mix of primitive and modern body parts.

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

"We don't know if it wove webs", said the KU researcher.

Amber has been crucial for tracing the early ancestors of spiders - but only up to a certain point.


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