Fossilised spiders with 'tails' found in Myanmar rainforest

University of Kansas KU News Service

University of Kansas KU News Service

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. However, it also bears a long flagellum or tail. The research was conducted by a team which included researchers from the University of Kansas and colleagues from different nations like China, Germany, Virginia and the United Kingdom. An global team of researchers discovered a new species of arachnid that looks like a spider with a tail and fangs. The spider fossils were found trapped in amber. What's fantastic is that the amber process preserves parts that wouldn't be conserved through regular fossilization. But at some point, tree sap poured over the bodies of some of them, encasing and preserving their corpses for amber miners to uncover millions of years later.

The C. yingi fossils were uncovered by amber miners in northern Burma, sold to dealers, then purchased by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Believed to have existed during the Cretaceous age approximately 100m years ago, the new spider species appeared relatively normal at first by modern standards, with fangs, four walking legs and silk-producing spinnerets at its rear.

"We don't know if it wove webs", said the KU researcher. The other thinks the arachnid may have been an early branch of modern spiders-"a kind of missing link" between the uraraneids and the spiders we know today, Selden tells Ian Sample of the Guardian.

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. "In our analysis, it comes out sort of in between the older one that hadn't developed the spinneret and modern spider that has lost the tail". On the other side Wang examined two other fossils of the species and based on its silk-spinning apparatus he stated that they belonged to the spider species lived around 100 million years ago. Another distinctive feature is that uraraneids had plates on their bellies instead of the squishy abdomens seen in spiders. The animal itself is only two and a half millimeters long, with its tail reaching three millimeters.

The tail was likely a sensory appendage, like an antenna, Selden said. Those much older animals formed the basis of a new arachnid order, the Uraraneida, which would lead the way to modern spiders.

University of Kansas KU News Service                   Spider in amber
University of Kansas KU News Service Spider in amber

But the creature, which likely walked the Earth more than 100 million years ago, also had a tail. Scientists may have just discovered your worst nightmare.

Scientists say it is not a spider, but a relative that crawled around Southeast Asia, alongside ancient spiders for millions of years.

Professor Selden said it was not inconceivable that the chimaera could even still be alive today.

"We haven't found them", he says in the University of Kansas statement, "but some of these forests aren't that well-studied, and it's only a tiny creature".

Eventually, some of these amber slabs found their ways into the hands of paleontologists like Paul Selden, who wrote a paper on the findings published February 5 in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

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