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 amber has often traveled to China, where dealers have been selling to research institutions.
"The ones we recognised previously were different in that they had a tail but don't have the spinnerets", Selden said. "We can only speculate that, because it was trapped in amber, we assume it was living on or around tree trunks", says Selden.
As a result, the species has been named Chimerarachne in reference to the Chimera - a monstrous fire-breathing creature from Greek mythology which was composed of limbs from various animals. In the last few years, we've seen some incredible finds inside amber, including a tick in the middle of a meal, an otherworldly insect, a bug that's jumped out of its skin, mammalian red blood cells, and a dinosaur tail complete with feathers.
"Amber is fossilised resin, so for a spider to have become trapped, it may well have lived under bark or in the moss at the foot of a tree". The scientists believe that the tail "swished from side to side" while the creature moved in order to sense predators or prey. The specimens were actually found in Myanmar where amateur amber hunters bring their finds to sell to the highest bidder. Their bodies are close to one-tenth of an inch long but their tails more than double their length. But it's hard to know what the chimera spider's daily life was like.
In studies published side-by-side in Nature Ecology and Evolution, one team argued that male sex organs and silk thread-producing teats link the creature to living spiders. Until then, that lineage had only been found only in 50-million-year-old amber. These specimens became available a year ago to Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology, he added. Both scorpions and this fossilized bug are part of an arachnid group related to true spiders.
"Take the front of a spider, the end of a vinegarroon and then you put spinnerets on it and that's our fossil", said Gonzalo Giribet, an invertebrate biologist from Harvard University and an author on one of the papers.
The creature, which has been named Chimerarachne yingi, boasts a odd mix of features that we see on modern-day arachnids.
By the way, though it appears the animal was capable of producing silk, there's no evidence to suggest that C. yingi wove webs. "In our analysis, it comes out sort of in between the older one that hadn't developed the spinneret and modern spider that has lost the tail". 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. The two groups say they didn't know about each other until after they submitted their results to the same journal. "We've not found fossils before that showed this, and so finding this now was a huge surprise", said Garwood.