Spider-like arachnid with a tail sheds new light on origin of spiders

Artist's impression of Chimerarachne yingi

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. Amber is fossilized tree resin and is known for perfectly preserving many ancient fossils of insects and plants.

Although the creature has the fangs and eight legs of a modern day spider, the ancient arachnid dating back to the age of the dinosaurs also has a long, whip-like tail.

Several years ago, Paul Selden of the Paleontological Institute and Department of Geology at the University of Kansas discovered similar tailed creatures, though they were lacked the spinnerets. Their bodies are close to one-tenth of an inch long but their tails more than double their length. The BBC reports the "cousin" of the spider - called a Chimerarachne yingi - lived about 100 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period.

But from the point of view of Gonzalo Giridet's team at Harvard University, who conducted the other study, Chimerarachne yingi would be a Uraraneida itself and would have gotten extinct without leaving descendants.

Those with arachnophobia might want to look away now, as scientists have unearthed an incredible 100m-year-old spider that actually had a tail.

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.

Researchers of the latest study found out that the modern spiders might have a connection with the prehistoric arachnids. "These specimens became available past year to Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology".

Luckily for everyone who hates spiders, these new animals were not very big according to the researchers.

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But it's unique in that it has a "long flagellum, or tail", which is not something found on any living spider.

The finding is described in a paper appearing in Nature Ecology & Evolution by an worldwide 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. This comes from the Greek mythological Chimera, a hybrid creature composed of parts of more than one animal. No living spider has a tail.

"Chimerarachne could be considered as a spider".

Had there been any humans alive during the dinosaur age, they may not have been too scared of the spiders as they were all just 2.5 millimetres long - excluding the almost 3 millimetre-long tail.

The species has a typical Uraraneidan telson, but also boasts trademark Araneaen structures, including well defined spinnerets for silk production. They're also all male, which Selden says makes sense based on the behavior of modern spiders: adult male spiders are more likely to be wandering around somewhere they could become trapped in the flowing tree sap that hardened into amber.

Although this fossil is ancient, Selden believes that because the spider is so small and exists so remotely, it could actually still be around today.

An extraordinary new species of arachnid, resembling a spider with a tail, has been discovered suspended in amber, a pair of new studies reported Monday.

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