An ancient spider fossil trapped inside amber has baffled the scientists and they are now in doubts about the origins of spiders. The latest study revealed that there might be a link between the ancient arachnids and the modern-day spiders. Amber is fossilized tree resin and is known for perfectly preserving many ancient fossils of insects and plants. The latest study is also based on a well preserved and intact spider cousin fossil that lived almost 100 million years ago in the Cretaceous period.
Researchers of the latest study found out that the modern spiders might have a connection with the prehistoric arachnids. Today’s eight-legged spiders bear many similarities with the arachnids. But the main difference is, arachnids had a tail while modern-day spiders do not have any tail. The scientists suspect that the spiders might have lived with the tailed spiders of arachnids side by side for about 200 million years side-by-side. Also, according to them, there is a chance that some modern arachnoids might be still there in the remote rainforests of Southeast Asia.
Dr Paul Selden of the University of Kansas said, “We haven’t found them, but some of these forests aren’t that well-studied, and it’s only a tiny creature.” Four specimens of tiny tailed spider were discovered inside Burmese amber that was recovered from Myanmar. The scientists got excited after getting hold of the first evidence of ancient tailed spiders. Co-author of the study, Russell Garwood of The University of Manchester, said that they had known for decades that spiders evolved from arachnids that had tails, more than 315 million years ago. “We’ve not found fossils before that showed this, and so finding this now was a huge surprise,” said Garwood. The scientists have named the newly found spider cousin as Chimerarachne yingi.
Out of the four fossilized arachnids, two were studied by Gonzalo Giribet at Harvard University in Cambridge, Diying Huang at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Nanjing and their colleagues, and the rest two were studied by Bo Wang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Nanjing and his colleagues. Although their conclusions varied in terms of dating the ancient arachnids, they agreed that Silk-spinning spiders with and without tails co-existed for millennia. The newly discovered tailed spider fossil might fill the gap Palaeozoic arachnids with tails known from rocks (uraraneids) and the original spiders, as per the researchers.
Dr. Ricardo Perez-De-La Fuente, of the Oxford Museum of Natural History, said that the amazing fossils will play an important role in deciphering the puzzle of the evolution of spiders and allied groups. The latest research consisting of two separate studies was published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.