A new species of arachnid was found preserved in amber in Myanmar. The early arachnid lived in the mid-Cretaceous age about 100 million years ago.

Scientists hope that this discovery will shed more light on the origin and evolution of spiders.


A new paper, published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution showed the discovery of the ancient arachnid. The international team included Paul Selden of the Paleontological Institute and Department of Geology at the University of Kansas and members from the Virginia, UK, Germany, and China.

Scientists named the new animal Chimerarachne, after the chimera, a creature from Greek mythology. It's a creature that is a hybrid of different animals.

Discovery of the animal was made when scientists were able to get a specimen of amber from Myanmar that was sold in China.

"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.

While it resembles a modern spider, it is an ancient relative. Like the spider, it has fangs, four walking legs, and spinnerets that can produce silk. One of the major differences in this spider is the long tail emerging from the arachnid's abdomen.

Its tail may make it look terrifying, but one aspect of the animal that can quell fears is its size. Four different specimens of the spider were found and were all around 2.5 millimeters in size. That's excluding the tails, which were 3 millimeters.

Even though it has spinnerets like it's modern relative, Chimerarachne was likely not able to spin webs. Selden says that the team isn't sure whether Chimerarachne produced webs like its modern ancestor. It could produce silk, which spiders use for a host of different reasons besides for wrapping eggs.

Selden is convinced that ancestors to the Chimerarachne may still be living in Myanmar due to the lack of research done in its rainforest.

Living Fossils

Previously, another ancient spider was found in Madagascar. The pelican spider was first found in amber in 1854 and then found to still be alive in modern times. What revealed the pelican spider to be such an ancient animal is its appearance.

The pelican spider was found to have lived during the separation of Pangaea. It was first discovered in Baltic amber. Currently, the pelican spider can only be found on the island of Madagascar.

Pelican spiders, unlike modern spiders, do not make webs to catch their food. Instead, they use their long beaks to impale their prey. Pelican spiders have an extended carapace and long mouth structures that protrude from the head. These structures make the spider resemble a pelican.

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