Fossilised spiders with 'tails' found in Myanmar rainforest

Spider with a tail of 100 million years

But the creature, which likely walked the Earth more than 100 million years ago, also had a tail. Fleur reports for the New York Times, the newly discovered arachnid has at least one feature that sets it apart from any living spider: a tail.

The Chimerarachne looks an very bad lot like a spider: it has four pairs of walking legs, fangs, silk-spinning spinnerets at the rear, and pedipalps at the front.

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. What fascinated the researchers most, however, was the existence of the tail - something no other known spider has had.

That's what scientists found preserved in amber in Myanmar, but they're having a little trouble figuring out what exactly it is. But it wasn't until amber was bought over to China, by dealers selling it to research institutions, that they actually came across this hard evidence.

Prof Selden said the spider's remote habitat made it possible that tailed descendants may still be alive in Myanmar's back country to this day.

These animals, from the much older Devonian (about 380m years ago) and Permian (about 290m years ago) periods, formed the basis of a new arachnid order, the Uraraneida, which lies along the line to modern spiders. "So, we hope to fill in more of the story", Selden said. And, though it was capable of using its spinnerets to produce silk, it was unlikely to have woven webs.

How the spider would have looked.

As for what its day-to-day life would have been like, the researchers can only guess.

And in fact there's nothing to say that they're still not living there today for what we know because the region is not a well-studied area.

Given its size, the team believes there is still a chance its ancestors could be living in the south-east Asian rainforest today. "Egg-wrapping is a vital function for spider silk, as well as laying a trail to find its way back home".

Spiders went up into the air when the insects went up into the air.

"However, like all spiders it would have been a carnivore and would have eaten insects, I imagine", Seldon said. I presume that it didn't make webs that stretched across bushes. The unusual combination of features gave the new species its name: Chimerarachne yingi, for the hybrid creatures called chimeras in Greek mythology.

Research papers detailing the discovery, which were published in Nature, are clear about one thing: C. yingi isn't a spider, but it's also not far off. Arachnids have a twisted history, and paleontologists know that some of the closest ancient relatives to spiders didn't survive through to the modern day.

The spider lived on the islands of Myanmar - formerly Burma - during the mid-Cretaceous when Tyrannosaurus Rex ruled the planet.

They look like these older creatures so it's rather a surprise to see them alongside spiders, he said of the insects found alongside the fossils.

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