Spider with a whippy tail found in preserved amber

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

Spider with a whippy tail found in preserved amber

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.

The amber has often traveled to China, where dealers have been selling to research institutions.

"The ones we recognized previously were different in that they had a tail but don't have the spinnerets", says Selden. "We can only speculate that, because it was trapped in amber, we assume it was living on or around tree trunks", Selden said. That's why one of today's studies argues that this new species is a member of an extinct group of primitive spider relatives called uraraneids - which did have tails.

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.

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A 100-million-year-old spider trapped in amber has something you just don't see nowadays - a tail. However, according to Seldon, there is a possibility of descendants of the creepy tailed spiders living in southeast Asian forests even now.

In a paper published to Nature Ecology & Evolution, the global research team revealed that it found four new specimens of the species, each of which measures just 2.5mm in body length, while the tail adds an extra 3mm.

Known from four specimens, the ancient arachnid's formal name is Chimerarachne yingi.

Each spider's body was about 3mm long, while the tail measured up to 5mm. One of them, Wang Bo, pulled together a team to look at his two specimens, which they eventually named Chimerachne yingi ("chimera spider" in Latin).

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Its whip-like tail or flagellum, also known as a telson, likely "served a sensory objective", Wang told AFP.

Details of the new species are revealed in a paper published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution. Until then, that lineage had only been found only in 50-million-year-old amber. "These specimens became available previous year to Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology". These include spinnerets for producing silk for webs (as well as for other purposes like egg-wrapping), a modified male mouthparts, unique to each species, which are used to transfer sperm to the female during mating, and venom for immobilizing prey.

"It's a missing link between the ancient Uraraneida order, which resemble spiders but have tails and no silk-making spinnerets, and modern spiders, which lack tails", said Bo Wang, a palaeobiologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Nanjing and another lead author of the study.

The researchers have found four fossils of the spider entombed in chunks of amber from northern Myanmar which helped the scientists to establish a link between the modern spiders and an ancient group of arachnids that had a tail.

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Selden said: "We don't know if it wove webs". "We've not found fossils before that showed this, and so finding this now was a huge surprise", said Garwood.

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