Creepy alien is the oldest ancestor of spiders ever found

A PhD student has identified a fossil that is hundreds of millions of years old and is the ancestor of our current creepy crawlies.

The ancestor of modern scorpions, spiders and horseshoe crabs has long been a mystery among scientists.

New fossils answer the long-standing mystery about the ancestor of scorpions, spiders and horseshoe crabsCredit: Lustri, L., Gueriau, P. & Daley, AC / Illustration by Elissa Sorojsrisom
The fossil was found in the early 2000s and dates back to 505 million years agoCredit: ©UNIL

The creatures are all arthropods, meaning they have an exoskeleton, bilateral symmetry, jointed appendages, segmented bodies and specialized appendages.

More specifically, this group of arthropods belongs to the subphylum category, which means they have pincers used for biting, grasping or injecting venom, also known as chelicerae.

Scientists have been unable to identify the ancestor of these creatures, as fossils from 400 to 500 million years ago were a rare find.

Questions began to be answered when Lorenzo Lustri, then a doctoral candidate at the University of Lausanne’s Faculty of Geosciences and Environment, discovered fossils that were 478 million years old, according to EurekAlert!.

They came from the Fezouata Shale in Morocco and were found in the early 2000s.

One of the fossils found is called Setapedites Abundantis and is between 5 and 10 millimeters in size.

The discovery could fill the huge gap between modern creatures and the Cambrian period, which took place 505 million years ago.

Scientists have studied the multitude of fossils for years, but little did they know they had the key to an ongoing mystery at their fingertips.

“Initially, we only planned to describe and name this fossil. We had absolutely no idea that it would hold so many secrets,” Lorenzo Lustri said of his findings, according to the outlet.

“It was therefore an exciting surprise to realize, after careful observations and analysis, that it also filled an important gap in the evolutionary tree of life.”

Giant 16-foot dinosaur belonging to a clever predator species that was ‘much larger than the birds of prey from Jurassic Park’ discovered

Scientists are still observing the fossils and believe that some of their anatomical features may allow a better understanding of the early evolution of the chelicerate, pincher, group.

DISCOVERY PROCESS

When they found the fossils, researchers were able to study them using an X-ray scanner to reconstruct their anatomy in detail and in 3D.

By doing this, they were able to compare the fossil with modern-day creatures and other ancient relatives.

Through phylogenetic analysis, which mathematically reconstructs the family tree, scientists saw that ‘coding’ their anatomical traits may have solved the mystery.

A timeline of life on Earth

The history of the planet in years…

  • 4.6 billion years ago – the origin of the Earth
  • The first life appeared on Earth 3.8 billion years ago
  • 2.1 billion years ago, life forms consisting of multiple cells evolved
  • 1.5 billion years ago, eukaryotes emerged, which are cells that contain a nucleus in their membranes
  • The first arthropods evolved 550 million years ago
  • The first fish appeared 530 million years ago
  • The first land plants appeared 470 million years ago
  • Forests emerged on Earth 380 million years ago
  • The first amphibians emerged from water onto land 370 million years ago
  • The first reptiles evolved 320 million years ago
  • Dinosaurs evolved 230 million years ago
  • Mammals appeared 200 million years ago
  • The earliest birds evolved 150 million years ago
  • 130 million years ago – first flowering plants
  • 100 million years ago – first bees
  • 55 million years ago, hares and rabbits appeared
  • The first cats evolved 30 million years ago
  • 20 million years ago, great apes evolved
  • The first human ancestors appear 7 million years ago
  • 2 million years ago – Homo erectus appears
  • 300,000 years ago – Homo sapiens evolves
  • 50,000 years ago – Eurasia and Oceania were colonized
  • 40,000 years ago – Extinction of the Neandethals

GIANT RAPTOR

The fossil discovery hasn’t been the only new recent scientific discovery.

In 2020, traces of a gigantic bird of prey, which is said to have lived tens of millions of years ago, were found in China’s Fujian province.

“When people think of raptor dinosaurs, they most likely think of the ones from the Jurassic Park movies: muscular, aggressive, human-sized hunters,” says Dr. Anthony Romilio, a paleontologist at the University of Queensland’s Dinosaur Lab.

“But these tracks were left by a much sleeker and smarter group in the Velociraptor family, known as Troodontids, which emerged about 95 million years ago in the Late Jurassic period.

“This bird of prey was about five meters long and had 1.8 meter long legs, much larger than the size of the birds of prey depicted in Jurassic Park.

“Imagine something like that coming at you at full speed!”

The songs were two-toed and described as “distinctive in form” and “unique”.

They gave a clue about the creature called Fujianipus yingliangi.

Also known as troodontids, they were described as bird-like dinosaurs that were predatory carnivores.

The dinosaurs had long legs, large brains and large eyes with binocular vision.

This new creature also has pincers used for biting, grabbing, or injecting venom, known as cheliceraeCredit: Getty
Scientists are still assessing the fossils to find further connections between ancestors and modern creaturesCredit: Getty

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