Science

A spider with a tail was an actual animal that once lived

A spider with a tail was an actual animal that once lived”

Scientists have been able to fix another piece of the jigsaw in arachnid evolution because four Chimerarachne became trapped in forest resin millions of years ago, turning into to semi precious amber.

Around 15 years ago they discovered that Burmese amber was older, which resulted in a huge amount of new material becoming available for study.

For starters, in addition to fairly standard spider traits such as fangs and multi-segmented spinnerets that produce silk, there's that tail.

Paul Selden, a paleontologist at the University of Kansas who unveiled that other ancient arachnid and worked with Wang to analyze this latest discovery, said he'd been waiting to find something like this ever since A. fimbriunguis was discovered. They only measured 2.5 millimeters in length with a tail longer than its body at 3 millimeters.

At 3mm, the tail extends beyond the newly christened Chimerarachne yingi's 2.5mm body and the worldwide scientists behind its discovery say it links today's spiders with those that lived before dinosaurs.

Other species of insects, including millipedes and modern spiders, were also found alongside the four chimaera fossils. Spider fossils go back even further to the Carboniferous, more than 300 million years ago.

Dr. Ricardo Perez-De-La Fuente, of the Oxford Museum of Natural History, said that the awesome fossils will play an important role in deciphering the puzzle of the evolution of spiders and allied groups. No modern spider has a similar feature. Researchers do not entirely agree on how the creepy crawly should be classified, however. But it also has a hard-to-miss tail, or flagellum, a feature thankfully missing from today's spiders.

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The extraordinary finding is described in Nature Ecology & Evolution by an global team which included earth scientist Dr Russell Garwood of Manchester University.

The new animal, called Chimerarachne after the Greek mythological Chimera, a hybrid creature composed of the parts of more than one animal, lies one step closer to modern spiders on account of its possession of spinning organs. The creature fills the gap between ancient arachnids with tails and true spiders, Ricardo Perez-De-La-Fuente of the Oxford Museum of Natural History told the BBC.

This reconstruction shows how this amber fossil looks like it's part scorpion and part spider. He thought the presence of spinnerets pulled it to the side of spiders.

"Spinnerets are used to produce silk but for a whole host of reasons - to wrap eggs, to make burrows, to make sleeping hammocks or just to leave behind trails", says Selden.

That would mean that the tailed spider lived for about 200 million years side-by-side with spiders, Garwood, said.

Researchers think the spiders lived among the trees due to their amber coffins. 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.

Amber can give us an unprecedented view into prehistoric life, preserving softer elements that regular fossilization just can't.



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