Creepy Tailed Spiders Found In A Fossil

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If you're one of the many people who have a fear of spiders, going back in time 100 million years apparently wouldn't have done you any good.

But, he continued, "We've not found fossils before that showed this, and so finding this now was a huge (but really fantastic) surprise".

The spider species was frozen in amber during the middle of the Cretaceous geological period - when dinosaurs ruled the Earth - in what is now Myanmar.

The unusual creature shares certain characteristics with modern spiders - including fangs, four walking legs and silk-producing organs at its rear - however, it also has a long tail, or flagellum - a feature that living spiders lack.

"There's been a lot of amber being produced from northern Myanmar and its interest stepped up about ten years ago when it was discovered this amber was mid-Cretaceous; therefore, all the insects found in it were much older than first thought", said Selden. There's that one feature you've probably noticed already that you might not expect to find at all in a spider: a long, segmented, whip-like tail that resembles the telson found in scorpions. That positions the 100-million-year-old spider, now named Chimerarachne, as a sort of stepping stone between those early arachnids and modern spiders.

"Chimerarachne fills the gap between Palaeozoic arachnids with tails known from rocks (uraraneids) and true spiders, and the fact the new fossils have been wonderfully preserved in Burmese amber has allowed an unmatched detail of study", he said.

Another view of the holotype of C. yingi as it was preserved in amber for 100 million years...coincidentally the same number of nightmares today's announcement will foster.

The long whip-like tail may have been used like an antennae
The long whip-like tail may have been used like an antennae

It belongs to a group of arachnids (spiders, scorpions and the like) that were related to true spiders. This latest collection of finds ended up with two different research groups at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology. Researchers do not entirely agree on how the creepy crawly should be classified, however. What fascinated the researchers most, however, was the existence of the tail - something no other known spider has had.

The extraordinary finding is described in Nature Ecology & Evolution by an global team of boffins in the Hukawng Valley, Myanmar.

The first Uraraneida fossil was discovered in NY state in the U.S. in 1987 and was initially misidentified as a spider.

Scientists say the spiders were a missing link between the even more ancient uraraneids and primitive living spiders. But at some stage modern spiders ditched the tail.

The new creature has been called Chimerarachne after the Greek mythological Chimera, a hybrid creature composed of the parts of more than one animal. It sports fangs and rear spinnerets for producing silk.

Gonzalo Giribet, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University who worked on Huang's team, said the new discovery might also shake up the arachnid family tree. Some argue that spinnerets were the key innovation that allowed spiders to become so successful; there are almost 50,000 known spider species alive today.

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So far, influenza A/H3 viruses have been most common this season, however, influenza A/H1 and influenza B are also circulating. Whatever the reason, "it's a whopper of a flu season", said Mimi Dreifuss, a North Carolina nurse who got sick this week.

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