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"Any sort of flagelliform appendage tends to be like an antenna", Selden said in a statement.

The tiny animal was trapped in amber, ie petrified resin, so it probably lived under a tree with resin. On the basis of the creature's tail, they conclude that it belongs to the Uraraneida, a group of spider relatives that was thought to have gone extinct around 275 million years ago.

The Cretaceous-era critter has been dubbed Chimerarachne yingi, borrowing its name from the Chimera, a mythological creature composed of the parts of several different animals.

The only good news for you arachnophobes is that even if you'd have run across this creepy little critter a hundred million years ago you might not have even noticed it.

Four fossils of the tiny crawlers were found largely intact, encased in Burmese amber that were recovered from Myanmar by researchers.

This handout image shows a photo of the holotype of the dorsal view of a Chimerachne yingi spider. Their body length is around 2.5 millimeters (0.1 inches) and their tail size is 3 millimeters (0.2 inches) which is longer than the body.

"Maybe the tail originally had a sensory function; it is covered in short hairs, but when spiders changed to lifestyle like being sit-and-wait predators, the tail was no longer really needed and became lost", Bo Wang was quoted by The Guardian.

Paleontologist Bo Wang, from Chinese Academy of Science, stated that the new fossil will act as a key to know about the origin of the spider.

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The earliest arachnids, a group including spiders, scorpions, mites, ticks and others, dates to about 420 million years ago.

This is then offered for sale to various institutions, with the new species - dating back to the mid-Cretaceous period - coming to light when specimens were made available to the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology.

"We can only speculate that, because it was trapped in amber, we assume it was living on or around tree trunks", Selden said, adding that unlike modern spiders - and despite its ability to produce silk - it likely didn't produce webs.

The extraordinary finding is described in Nature Ecology & Evolution by an global team which included earth scientist Dr Russell Garwood of Manchester University.

Paul Selden, a palaeontologist who worked on the specimen at the University of Kansas told The Guardian that they were "a kind of missing link" between the two species - the uraraneids and primitive living spiders.

"We don't know if it wove webs", said the KU researcher.

"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. 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.

They look like these older creatures so it's rather a surprise to see them alongside spiders, he said of the insects found alongside the fossils.


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