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This handout image shows a photo of the paratype of a dorsal view of second specimen of a Chimerachne yingi spider.Two teams of scientists on February 5, 2018 unveiled a missing-link species of spider with a scorpion-like tail, perfectly preserved in amber 100 million years ago in the forests Southeast Asia.Deep in a tropical rain forest, during a time when dinosaurs walked the Earth, four itsy bitsy spiders crawled down a tree, got stuck in some sticky resin and never climbed up again.Some 100 million years later, blocks of amber containing their fossilized forms wound up on the desks of two scientists in China.Both researchers looked at the perfectly preserved animals and came to the same conclusion: This was an entirely new kind of animal.They introduced their discovery, dubbed Chimerarachne yingi, in a pair of papers published Monday in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.With its curious mix of ancient and modern traits — a long, skinny tail inherited from a distant arachnid ancestor, but a silk-producing organ like those found in spiders today — the tiny chimerarachne, or “chimera spider,” is not a member of the immediate family.But it is one of modern spiders’ closest cousins, and it presents some intriguing hints at how they evolved. yingi fossils were uncovered by amber miners in northern Burma, sold to dealers, then purchased by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Neither was aware of what the other was up to until they submitted their studies for publication.Happily, their results were close enough that the journal opted to publish both papers.Both describe creatures so small they could fit on the tip of a fine-point pen, with eight legs and tiny but formidable fangs.Their hindquarters bear spinnerets, the same organs from which living species spin their silken webs.The males also have modified pedipalps — syringe-like appendages on the fronts of their faces that modern spiders use during mating.(Ready to learn more than you ever wanted to know about spider sex?
Male spiders don’t have penises, so they instead deposit their sperm on a ready-made swatch of web, suck up that sperm with their pedipalps and inject it into a female.