When a fossil dealer showed paleontologist Di-Ying Huang a blurry photo of his latest offering — a leggy creature entombed in amber — the scientist's eyes widened. Despite the poor-quality image, Huang, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, knew that the specimen was unique.
The creature had fangs, 8 legs, and a long tail that was at least twice the size of the rest of its body.
The specimen and another piece of fossil-containing amber were acquired for the academy's Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology. Word spread among academics about the bizarre find, and Bo Wang, another professor at the academy, obtained two more similar pieces of fossil-containing amber.
Analysis of the four fossils resulted in a scientific rarity. Two independent research teams have simultaneously announced the discovery of a new species, a 100-million-year old arachnid, which has been named Chimerarachne yingi, aka "Monster Spider." Both papers are published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.
"The most interesting feature of C. yingi is that it has both a tail and spinnerets," Wang told Seeker. "It is from a very primitive group, and their relatives were present before 250 million years ago."
He felt extremely surprised, he said, “because I never imagined that we could find this key fossil from the Cretaceous, only 100 million years ago."