Fossilised spiders with 'tails' found in Myanmar rainforest

Lena Tucker
February 7, 2018

Apart from the joys of flushing toilets and technology that allows you to order food without talking to another human, we get to enjoy the fact that spiders are mildly less terrifying than they were 100 million years ago.

But, he continued, "We've not found fossils before that showed this, and so finding this now was a huge (but really fantastic) surprise".

This revelation comes after scientists discovered critters preserved in amber on a tree in Myanmar for roughly 100 million years.

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

But the spider - encased in fossilised tree sap known as amber - also had a long tail.

Scientists have discovered a spider from 100 million years ago that had a tail, making it a potent nightmare fuel when its fangs and webbing are added to the mix.

Chimerarachne yingi could thus be the arachnid species most similar to modern spiders.

Dr. Ricardo Perez-De-La Fuente, of the Oxford Museum of Natural History, said that the wonderful fossils will play an important role in deciphering the puzzle of the evolution of spiders and allied groups.

The creature, which has been named Chimerarachne yingi, boasts a unusual mix of features that we see on modern-day arachnids.

This is then offered for sale to various institutions, with the new species - dating back to the mid-Cretaceous period - coming to light when specimens were made available to the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology. However, the researchers are taking their time in actually classifying this new creature because they want to be absolutely sure that it either belongs in an existing category or is the first example of an entirely new branch.

The two studies were published the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution. No living spider has a tail, although some relatives of spiders, the vinegaroons, do have an anal flagellum. "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.

The new creature has been called Chimerarachne after the Greek mythological Chimera, a hybrid creature composed of the parts of more than one animal.

Like a Griffin or a Jackalope, the spider looks like it had a tail from another creature attached to it.

"When you find the missing link, you just create two new gaps where previously, there was one".

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. 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.

Diying Huang, the researcher behind the second paper, noted that the arachnid had spinnerets but it may not have woven webs like spiders do.

Bottom right: The entire specimen in dorsal ventral view.

Other reports by AllAboutTopnews

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