The Stuff Of Nightmares: Long-tailed Spiders

Spiders that lived approximately 100 million years ago had long tails, according to research by Chinese scientists.

AsianScientist (Feb. 19, 2018) – Scientists in China have analyzed the anatomy of ancient spiders that had long tails. Their findings are published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Spiders are one of nature’s success stories, with spider webs distributed in nearly every corner of the world. Recently, a 100-million-year-old Burmese amber sample from Myanmar was discovered with ancient spiders embedded within it, shedding light on spider anatomy and evolution.

In this study, a team of scientists led by Professor Wang Bo from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences described and characterized Chimerarachne, fossilized spiders with tails, from within the Burmese amber sample. The spider was named after the chimera, a monster in Greek mythology composed of different animal parts.

These ‘monster spiders’ are tiny, less than two millimeters long, excluding their tails. The bodies of these spiders can be divided into two parts—prosoma and abdomen. The spiders have six eyes, four pairs of legs and four pairs of spinnerets, which they use to spin webs with. The anterior lateral and posterior lateral spinnerets bear 14 and 12 parts respectively, and each have a silk gland.

The most impressive feature of the ancient spiders is the long and thin tail, which is at least twice the spiders’ body length and consists of more than 70 parts. Such a long tail is similar to that of modern day whip scorpions. The researchers suggest that Chimerarachne is either the most primitive spider known, or else belongs to a group of extinct arachnids which were very similar to spiders.

The article can be found at: Wang et al. (2018) Cretaceous Arachnid Chimerarachne yingigen. et sp. nov. Illuminates Spider Origins.


Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences; Photo: Yang Dinghua.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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