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Scientists Find 305 Million Year Old ‘Almost Spider’ Fossil

A team of paleontologists from England have just found a 305 million years old spider-like fossil which may help explain some missing links about the evolution of spiders. The spider-like fossil was discovered by a fossil hunter Daniel Scotty in the 1980s. It was well conserved for over 30 years  in Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, France.

The conserved fossil was not being researched on due to lack of information and technology at the time. Now the researchers have come up with new information and new technology to research on fossils. Through high resolution CT scans and with the help of advanced 3D modelling, researchers have been able to better study the fossils which were previously been impossible to research due to being encased in rocks.

“This fossil is the most closely related thing we have to a spider that isn’t a spider,” said University of Manchester’s study lead Russell Garwood. “By CT scanning it, you can actually exact the full front half of the animal from the rock, to try and better understand its anatomy.”

The fossils show a 1.5 cm long eight-legged creature with spidery mouth. The only difference from a real spider is that although this creature may possibly produce silk, it lacks the spinnerets that spiders use to spin it. The species is named Idmonarachne brasieri after Idmon, the Greek mythological figure who was father of  Arachne, a skilled weaver.

“Our creature probably split off from the spider line after [Attercopus], but before true spiders appeared. The earliest known spider is actually from the same fossil deposit – and it definitely has spinnerets. So what we’re actually looking at is an extinct lineage that split off the spider line some time before 305 million years ago, and those two have evolved in parallel.” told Russell Garwood, a paleontologist at University of Manchester and the study’s lead author.

“When I first saw it, I was unsure what kind of arachnid it was,” said Russel. “The legs and entire front half of the body was buried in the rock” he added.

The team will now further research on the fossil to find out more about the evolution of modern day spider.Their findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

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