Creepy Tailed Spiders Found In A Fossil

There are many people who are afraid of spiders, whether they are deadly or not. What will likely scare the vast majority of arachnophobes around the globe is that scientists have uncovered creepy tailed spiders in amber. What is interesting about the preserved remains of ancient “proto-spiders” is that they had tails which were longer than their whole bodies.

Creepy Tailed Spiders
Image Source: University of Kansas/KU News Service

These creepy tailed spiders were discovered by fossil hunters tucked in lumps of amber. The amber was believed to have formed 100 million years ago in an area that we today know as Myanmar. The ancient arachnids are usually described as “chimeras” which is the name of a hybrid beast popular in Greek mythology. What’s interesting about them is that they consist of a mixture of body parts found on ancient animals and modern body parts.

The discovered arachnids are equipped with fangs, twin feelers, also known as pedipalps, and spinnerets which produce the silk at the rear. However, they are also equipped with tails which are also common in even older spider relatives called uraraneids. The scientists believe that the tail “swished from side to side” while the creature moved in order to sense predators or prey.

Paul Selden, a palaeontologist who worked on the specimen at the University of Kansas told The Guardian that they were “a kind of missing link” between the two species – the uraraneids and primitive living spiders.  They were named Chimerarachne yingi, and they lived at the time when the huge herbiovore Argentinosaurus, the meat-eating Spinosaurus, and Rugops lived on the planet. However, according to Seldon, there is a possibility of descendants of the creepy tailed spiders living in southeast Asian forests even now.

Amber from Myanmar was mined for a long time, and used in order to trade with China as a form of jewelry. However, even though scientists have spent many years studying bugs living in amber, only recently they were able to get its true age.

Bo Wang worked on the creatures at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Nanjing. According to The Guardian, he said that he was surprised to discover key fossils originating from the Cretaceous period.

“It’s a very primitive group and their relatives were present more than 250m years ago,” he told The Guardian.

Each spider’s body was about 3mm long, while the tail measured up to 5mm.

“Maybe the tail originally had a sensory function; it is covered in short hairs, but when spiders changed to lifestyle like being sit-and-wait predators, the tail was no longer really needed and became lost,” Bo Wang was quoted by The Guardian.

According to Gonzalo Giribet, a zoologist at Harvard University, the new species looks quite appealing, and believes that they would likely never attack a human.

“These are gorgeous creatures and would probably never harm a human, like 99.99% of the spiders,” he said as reported by The Guardian.

The details on the new species can be found in two papers published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.