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07 February 2018, 01:29 | Virginia Benson
Science Image Source Diying Huang et al. Nature
Around 100 million years ago, oozing tree sap poured over hundreds of tiny spiders, killing and preserving the critters in hardened amber.
Selden also noted that increased production of amber in northern Myanmar gave the team a great hint as to where they might potentially find more prehistoric creatures.
Around 15 years ago they discovered that Burmese amber was older, which resulted in a huge amount of new material becoming available for study. Alongside modern spider traits such as a silk-producing structure called a spinneret, it possessed a remarkably primitive feature: a whip-like tail covered in short hairs that it may have used for sensing predators and prey.
Scientists have discovered the fossilised remains of a previously unknown species of arachnid boasting a scorpion-like tail even longer than its body.
Being minuscule, given that each fossil was about 7-8 mm long, including the 5 millimeters of the tail, the animal was called Chimerarachne yingi, a reference to Himera, the hybrid monster of Greek mythology, because it is a curious mixture of old and modern characteristics.
Russell Garwood, co-researcher of the Study, from The University of Manchester stated, "We have known for a decade or so that spiders evolved from arachnids that had tails, more than 315 million years ago".
But the creature, which likely walked the Earth more than 100 million years ago, also had a tail.
Dr. Ricardo Perez-De-La Fuente, of the Oxford Museum of Natural History, said that the unbelievable fossils will play an important role in deciphering the puzzle of the evolution of spiders and allied groups. What's interesting about them is that they consist of a mixture of body parts found on ancient animals and modern body parts.
The finding is described in a paper appearing in Nature Ecology & Evolution by an global team including Paul Selden of the Paleontological Institute and Department of Geology at the University of Kansas and colleagues from China, Germany, Virginia and the United Kingdom.
"No living spider has a tail, although some relatives of spiders, the vinegaroons, do have an anal flagellum", the University of Kansas said in a statement. For example, if they discover that these ancient creatures made venom, that could place them more firmly in the modern spider lineage.
Scientists found the creature trapped in a piece of amber from the mid-Cretaceous period, and now believe that it's an entirely new species.
This reconstruction shows how this amber fossil looks like it's part scorpion and part spider.
"It seems to be an intermediate form", Selden said - midway between the spinneret-less A. fimbriunguis and the spiders of today. It has "spinnerets" located at its read end through which it once produced silk.
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.
"It challenges our view of how we define 'spider'". 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.
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