Paul Selden, a paleontologist at the University of Kansas who unveiled that other ancient arachnid and worked with Wang to analyze this latest discovery, said he'd been waiting to find something like this ever since A. fimbriunguis was discovered.
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. Amber is fossilized tree resin and is known for perfectly preserving many ancient fossils of insects and plants. 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.
The study, published in the journal of Nature Ecology and Evolutionon Monday, explains the name was inspired by the chimera, a creature from Greek mythology with a snake for a tail.
This revelation comes after scientists discovered critters preserved in amber on a tree in Myanmar for roughly 100 million years. But no living spiders have tails.
The team theorized that the tail potentially served as a form of antenna for sensing its environment, particularly because the tail was thin and whip-like.
Only by finding more arachnids in amber can scientists weave together the rest of the spider's evolutionary history.
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The creatures were tiny, with a body length of about two-tenths of an inch, including the tail. "Animals that have a long whippy tail tend to have it for sensory purposes". 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).
If more specimens emerge, Selden and others hope to find out more about the spider's anatomy, behavior and whether it has a female counterpart. These specimens became available previous year to Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology, he added. The Chimerarachne shares an appendage with scorpions as well as similarities with modern spiders that include fangs and spinnerets.
The finding is described in a paper appearing in Nature Ecology & Evolution by an global team including Paul Selden of the Paleontological Institute and Department of Geology at the University of Kansas and colleagues from China, Germany, Virginia and the United Kingdom.
"We can only speculate that, because it was trapped in amber, we assume it was living on or around tree trunks", Selden said, adding that unlike modern spiders - and despite its ability to produce silk - it likely didn't produce webs. The Chimerarachne turned up in Burmese amber, one of the few materials conducive to spider fossils. Spider relatives that are almost three and four times as old as C. yingi also had tails but no spinnerets. "It all depends on where we decide to draw the line", Selden said.
The telson is something we see it today in scorpions - but it has never been known before in a spider. "We haven't found them", says Selden, "but some of these forests aren't that well-studied, and it's only a tiny creature".