Tags: spider | fossils | tail | arachnid

Spider Fossils With Tails: 'Fantastic' Arachnid Surprise

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By    |   Tuesday, 06 February 2018 02:01 PM

Spider fossils with whip-like tails are challenging what scientists previously thought they knew about the origin of arachnids.

The recent discovery of four of these creatures in northern Myanmar, trapped in amber for 100 million years, has blown the door wide open for researchers to establish a link between ancient and modern day arachnids, the BBC News reported.

“We have known for a decade or so that spiders evolved from arachnids that had tails, more than 315 million years ago,” said Dr Russell Garwood of The University of Manchester, a co-researcher on the study. “We've not found fossils before that showed this, and so finding this now was a huge (but really fantastic) surprise.”

The researchers documented their findings in two separate papers and hope that their discovery would help in their attempt to decipher the evolution of arachnids.

Professor Paul Selden, an arachnid expert from the University of Kansas and co-author of one of the papers, said that not much is known about how the small species, named Chimerarachne yingi, lived.

He noted that the tail was used to sense the environment but at some point during the evolutionary process, they lost the it.

“[Today] modern spiders tend to use silk for sensing,” he said, per ABC News.

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

He noted that the arachnid probably secreted the silk onto the ground as an “early warning function like some recent relatives.”

There is some debate around whether the new species should be considered a spider or a completely different type of arachnid. Ricardo Perez-De-La Fuente, of the Oxford Museum of Natural History, said the species definitely provided a missing link to the arachnid family tree.

"Chimerarachne fills the gap between Palaeozoic arachnids with tails known from rocks (uraraneids) and true spiders, and the fact the new fossils have been wonderfully preserved in Burmese amber has allowed an unmatched detail of study," he said, per BBC.

And although he noted that the discovery would likely bring about more questions than answers, “questions are what keep things exciting and push the boundaries of science.”

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Spider fossils with whip-like tails are challenging what scientists previously thought they knew about the origin of arachnids.
spider, fossils, tail, arachnid
Tuesday, 06 February 2018 02:01 PM
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