Monday, 18 June, 2018

Myanmar: Spider with Scorpion-Like Tail Found by Scientists

Science								Image Source Diying Huang et al.  Nature Science Image Source Diying Huang et al. Nature
Grady Vargas | 07 February, 2018, 01:55

"These things appear to be essentially spiders with tails!" says Jason Bond, an evolutionary biologist at Auburn University in Alabama who was not involved with the work.

The C. yingi fossils were uncovered by amber miners in northern Burma, sold to dealers, then purchased by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Even though the two studies placed these new specimens in slightly different spots on the spider family tree, the differences are minor, Selden says. 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.

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.

Those with arachnophobia might want to look away now, as scientists have unearthed an incredible 100m-year-old spider that actually had a tail. However, according to Seldon, there is a possibility of descendants of the creepy tailed spiders living in southeast Asian forests even now.

The tail's function is unclear, but the researchers suspect it may have worked like a kind of antenna that the arachnid used to sense environmental cues.

There is no way to tell if the spider is venomous, since the Chimerarachne's fangs aren't large enough to examine.

Scientists believe the tail was longer that its body and was used as a sensory device to seek out prey or escape predators. The Chimerarachne shares an appendage with scorpions as well as similarities with modern spiders that include fangs and spinnerets.

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They introduced their discovery, dubbed Chimerarachne yingi, in a pair of papers published Monday in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution. Four specimens have been recovered, all of which have bodies about 2.5 mm (0.1 in) long and tails about that long again.

Fossil hunters found the extraordinary creatures suspended in lumps of amber that formed 100m years ago in what is now Myanmar.

This is then offered for sale to various institutions, with the new species - dating back to the mid-Cretaceous period - coming to light when specimens were made available to the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology.

"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.

No living spider now on record has a tail, but this specimen has all the hallmarks of being a spider - fangs, pedipalps and silk-producing spinnerets at its rear.

He said: "It makes us wonder if these may still be alive today".

The telson is something we see it today in scorpions - but it has never been known before in a spider. "We've not found fossils before that showed this, and so finding this now was a huge surprise", said Garwood.

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