Sunday, 19 August, 2018

Found: 100-Million-Year Old Arachnid with a Tail Encased in Amber

Spider-like arachnid with a tail sheds new light on origin of spiders Spider with a whippy tail found in preserved amber
Guillermo Lane | 07 February, 2018, 01:27

The discovery closes a gap in the fossil record of 170 million years, the researchers report.

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

The spider lived on the islands of Myanmar - formerly Burma - during the mid-Cretaceous when Tyrannosaurus Rex ruled the planet.

The odd creature shares certain characteristics with modern spiders - including fangs, four walking legs and silk-producing organs at its rear - however, it also has a long tail, or flagellum - a feature that living spiders lack.

The new study confirms a prediction the researchers made a few years ago when they described a similar arachnid that also resembles a spider with a tail, but does not have silk-producing organs - known as spinnerets. "Animals that have a long whippy tail tend to have it for sensory purposes".

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. On the basis of the creature's tail, they conclude that it belongs to the Uraraneida, a group of spider relatives that was thought to have gone extinct around 275 million years ago.

Amber, often used in jewellery, is fossilised tree resin, the oldest dating back more than 300 million years. The researchers write that "there must have been a continuum of character reduction and character acquisition" along the line of evolutionary development that led to modern spiders. This latest collection of finds ended up with two different research groups at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology.

Brown says the opening up of the amber market has created a burgeoning new area of potential research.

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The finding has been described in a paper appearing in Nature Ecology and Evolution by an worldwide team, including Paul Selden of the Paleontological Institute and Department of Geology at the University of Kansas.

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.

"Chimerarachne most likely wove a sheet web, and possibly a burrow lined with silk". But it's hard to know what the chimera spider's daily life was like. No living spider has a tail.

Today's formal description of C. yingi appears in Nature Ecology & Evolution, which also published the related paper on the two additional specimens and alternate spot on the arachnid family tree.

The tailed spiders probably used their elongated appendages as a sort of sensing device, said Selden.

The species has a typical Uraraneidan telson, but also boasts trademark Araneaen structures, including well defined spinnerets for silk production. 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.

"It challenges our view of how we define 'spider'".

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